South Korea city deserted after coronavirus ‘super-spreads’ in church
SEOUL/BEIJING: The streets of South Korea’s fourth-largest city were abandoned on Thursday, with residents holed up indoors after dozens of people caught the coronavirus in what the authorities described as a “super-spreading event” at a church.
The deserted shopping malls and cinemas of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million people, became one of the most striking images outside China of an outbreak that international authorities are trying to prevent from spreading into a global pandemic.
New research suggesting the virus was more contagious than previously thought added to the alarm. And in China, where the virus has killed more than 2,100 people, officials changed their methodology for reporting infections, creating new doubt about data they have cited as evidence their strategy is working.
Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin told residents to stay indoors after 90 people who worshipped at the Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony showed symptoms of infection and dozens of new cases were confirmed.
The church had been attended by a 61-year-old woman who tested positive, known as “Patient 31”. Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the outbreak there as a “super-spreading event”.
“We are in an unprecedented crisis,” Kwon told reporters, adding that all members of the church would be tested. “We’ve asked them to stay at home isolated from their families.”
Describing the abandoned streets, resident Kim Geun-woo, 28, told Reuters by telephone: “It’s like someone dropped a bomb in the middle of the city. It looks like a zombie apocalypse.”
South Korea now has 104 confirmed cases of the flu-like virus, and reported its first death.
In China, officials have been pointing to evidence that new cases are declining as proof they are succeeding in keeping the virus largely contained to Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, where the virus initially emerged.
“We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva. – Reuters