South Korea declares 'war' against the coronavirus as cases approach 5,000

SEOUL: The president of South Korea on Tuesday declared war against him, placing all government agencies in a 24-hour emergency situation as the country's total cases, the largest in the world outside of China, approached to 5,000.

has seen a rapid increase in infections in recent days and dozens of events, from K-pop concerts to sports seasons, have been canceled or postponed due to contagion, with school and kindergarten breaks extended for three weeks throughout the country.

The central bank warned of negative growth in the first quarter for the 12th largest economy in the world, noting that the epidemic will affect both consumption and exports.

Moon said the government will inject more than 30 billion won (US $ 25 billion) into the economy to address the serious situation caused by the outbreak.

The entire country has gone to war with the infectious disease, Moon said, ordering all government agencies to operate 24 hours a day.

South Korea confirmed 477 new cases on Tuesday, with two more deaths affecting 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Korea said in a statement.

More than half of the cases have been linked to the Church of Jesus, a secret religious group that is often described as a cult.

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

Authorities said more than 190,000 members had been reviewed until Tuesday.

Lee Man-hee, the founder of the 88-year-old sect, apologized for Monday's outbreak, twice bowing his head at a televised press conference, insisting that his organization was cooperating with the government's containment efforts.

Seoul city authorities have filed a complaint with prosecutors seeking that he and other Shincheonji leaders be charged with murder and other crimes.

Of the 4,812 cases across the country, almost 90 percent were in Daegu and the neighboring province of North Gyeongsang, the KCDC said.