SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korea reported 123 new confirmed coronavirus cases and a fourth death from the virus, taking total infections to 556, the Korea Centres for Disease and Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Sunday (Feb 23).
More than half the additional cases were found to be linked to a Shincheonji Church of Jesus congregation in the southeastern city of Daegu after a 61-year-old woman known as “Patient 31” who attended services at the church tested positive for the virus last week.
The woman had no recent record of overseas travel.
South Korea’s earlier cases were linked to China, but the new infections centre on Daegu, a city of about 2.5 million, and a hospital in Cheongdo, a county with about 43,000 people.
In response to the recent sharp rise in cases, KCDC designated both the city of Daegu and Cheongdo county as “special care zones” on Friday.
Since the first outbreak on Jan 20, four have died from the virus in South Korea.
The fourth patient who died on Sunday was a 57-year-old man who was at the Cheongdo hospital, according to the KCDC.
A day earlier, nine of the 39 South Korean Catholics who had gone on a pilgrimage to Israel earlier this month were confirmed to have been infected with the virus.
Catholic churches in the cities of Daegu and Gwangju and elsewhere have suspended mass and other gatherings.
The coronavirus originated in China and has spread to more than two dozen countries.
China has reported 76,936 cases and 2,442 deaths, according to data through Saturday.