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23 Feb 2020 | 01:40 AM UTC

South Korea: Coronavirus cases continue to increase nationwide February 23 /update 6

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun asks citizens to avoid public gatherings as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases increase to 556 as of February 23; further spread of the virus likely



Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in South Korea have increased to at least 556 nationwide as of Sunday, February 23. The surge in cases are linked to a hospital in Cheongdo and a religious group in Daegu (North Gyeongsang province). Daegu and Cheongdo have been designated as "special care zones" on Friday, February 21.

In response to the recent surge in cases, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun issued a public statement on Saturday, February 22, asking residents to avoid public gatherings to prevent further spread of the virus. The prime minister also warned citizens not to interfere with government quarantine measures and to not hoard medical supplies. Seoul’s mayor has also banned the use of public plazas for outdoor rallies as a precaution. Similar containment measures may be implemented throughout the country over the coming days and weeks. Associated business and transportation disruptions are possible.

South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines announced on Wednesday, February 12, that it will reduce service to China until March 28. The government is also advising Korean nationals to refrain from traveling to China, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Further spread of COVID-19 is likely over the coming days and weeks in South Korea.


The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 31 countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.


Individuals in North Gyeongsang province are advised to monitor the situation, anticipate further business disruptions, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.

To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
  • If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
  • Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments

In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, individuals are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.