Nearly 500 new coronavirus cases send South Korea total past 4,000

Medical workers wearing protective gear carry a patient infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Chuncheon on February 22, 2020. South Korea reported 142 more coronavirus cases on February 22, the sharpest spike in infections yet, with more than half of the new cases linked to a hospital in a southern city. The national toll of 346 is now the second-highest outside of China. YONHAP / AFP

AFP – South Korea reported nearly 500 new coronavirus cases Monday, sending the largest national total in the world outside China past 4,000.

Four more people had died, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, taking the toll to 22.

Infection numbers have surged in the world’s 12th-largest economy in recent days and the country’s central bank has warned of negative growth in the first quarter, noting the epidemic will hit both consumption and exports, while scores of events have been cancelled or postponed over the contagion.

The figures are expected to rise further as authorities carry out checks on more than 260,000 people associated with the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious group often condemned as a cult that is linked to more than half the cases.

A 61-year-old female member developed a fever on February 10 but attended at least four church services in Daegu — the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million and the centre of the outbreak — before being diagnosed.

Of the 476 new cases announced Monday — taking the total to 4,212 — more than 90 percent were in Daegu and the neighbouring province of North Gyeongsang, the KCDC said.

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