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28 Feb 2020 | 11:03 PM UTC

South Korea: Health officials confirm nearly 3000 COVID-19 cases February 29 /update 8

Officials confirm 2931 cases of COVID-19 nationwide on February 29; further spread of the virus expected in the near term

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Event

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) confirmed 2931 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and 16 related fatalities across South Korea as of 09:00 (local time) on Saturday, February 29. The highest number of cases remains in Daegu, followed by the Gyeongbuk region. Health officials have failed to identify the source of a number of COVID-19 cluster infections across the country, as they continue to carry out source tracings for infected individuals. Further spread of COVID-19 is expected over the coming days and weeks across South Korea.

Local media outlets reported on Saturday that 71 countries have restricted entry to individuals from South Korea. Further travel restrictions for individuals traveling from or via South Korea and/or for South Korean nationals are anticipated in the near term. Domestic airlines have canceled a significant number of domestic and international flights to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to adhere to international travel restrictions. More information regarding Korean Air flight cancelations can be found on the company's website here. Further domestic and international flight disruptions, including suspensions and reductions in flight services, are anticipated in the coming days and weeks.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip urged individuals to remain indoors and avoid mass gatherings such as religious services on Saturday through Sunday, March 1. A number of universities delayed their reopening until Monday, March 16. The government has maintained a red (the highest on a four-tier scale) warning in preparation for potential nationwide transmission of COVID-19 since Sunday, February 23. Significant business and transportation disruptions are possible.

Context

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. A surge in cases linked to a religious sect in Daegu and a hospital in Cheongdo (North Gyeongsang province) led to their February 21 designation as "special care zones."

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous 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 risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "'very high' at global level."

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.

Advice

Individuals in South Korea are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, anticipate further transportation and 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, South Korea, Italy, and Iran 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.