The 516 new cases, identified on Tuesday, brought the nation's total number of infections to 5,328, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
The additional cases followed the 600 new cases detected on Monday and the nation's sharpest daily spikes of 1,062 on Sunday and 813 on Saturday.
So far, 32 people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses, have died in South Korea from the respiratory virus that emerged in China late last year, the KCDC said.
Unveiling the extra budget, which is subject to approval from the National Assembly, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said 2.3 trillion won will be allocated to offer more medical equipment, hospital beds and facilities for patient treatment.
About 60 percent of confirmed cases have been linked to a branch of the Shincheonji religious sect in Daegu, the country's fourth-largest city, with a population of 2.5 million.
However, health authorities have shifted their focus to testing ordinary citizens in Daegu, citing an alarming level of community spread.
Of the 516 new cases, 405 are in Daegu and 89 are in neighboring North Gyeongsang Province, the two epicenters of the virus outbreak here, the KCDC said. The total confirmed cases in Daegu and North Gyeongsang stood at 4,006 and 774, respectively.
Other major provinces and cities have also reported infections, with Seoul seeing one additional case, bringing its total to 99. Busan's caseload rose by three to 93. New cases were also reported in several provinces, including Gyeonggi, Gangwon and South Chungcheong.
Six Korean people, as well as the Japanese spouse of one, who were brought back to South Korea last month from a virus-hit cruise ship in Japan, will be released from their two-week quarantine, Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip told reporters.
Twenty virus patients at the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, near Daegu, were also declared cured, Kim said. A total of 119 patients and medical staff at the hospital had been infected with the virus.
Since raising the virus alert level to "red," the highest level, on Feb. 23, health authorities have focused on halting the spread of the virus in Daegu and North Gyeongsang.
According to the central government and Daegu city, about 2,300 confirmed cases in Daegu are tied to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. About 11,000 ordinary citizens there with no connection to Shincheonji have undergone tests and 1,300 have tested positive for the virus.
Following the report of the first case in South Korea on Jan. 20, the pace of infections had not been alarming until Feb. 18, when a 61-year-old woman linked to the Shincheonji sect in Daegu tested positive for the virus.
Since then, the nation has seen an explosion in infections and has accelerated virus tests on potential cases.
South Korea has released 41 fully recovered novel coronavirus patients from hospitals as of Tuesday, up 7 from a day earlier, the KCDC said.
The number of people being checked for the virus and under quarantine came to 28,474 as of Tuesday, down 7,141 from the day before, it added. The country has tested a total of 131,379 suspected cases, with 102,965 testing negative.
Currently, there is no evidence that the new coronavirus is airborne. The World Health Organization said the virus is transmitted through droplets or close contact. The best measures to protect yourself from the virus are to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and avoid mass gatherings, health officials said.
To help raise awareness of the virus among foreigners in South Korea, Arirang TV and the state-run Korea Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) said they are offering simultaneous English-language translation services on daily media briefings by health authorities via Arirang TV's YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/arirang) and KOCIS' website (www.korea.net).
S. Korea's exports of masks up 9-fold in Jan. amid coronavirus spread
South Korea's outbound shipments of protective masks surged nearly ninefold in January from a year earlier amid the coronavirus outbreak, data showed Wednesday.
Exports of textile articles, which include masks, came to US$72.6 million in January, up from $8.29 million a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Korea International Trade Association.
The amount is roughly equal to 90 percent of South Korea's textile product exports for the whole of 2019, which came to $80.9 million.
While the segment does not necessarily only include protective masks, industry watchers say the increase was apparently driven solely by the product, considering the figures were almost unchanged over previous years.
China, the epicenter of the global COVID-19 epidemic, accounted for 85 percent of the volume, with exports to the world's second-largest economy jumping to $61.3 million in January, compared with $820,000 a year earlier.
The figure is expected to decline after South Korea made a belated decision last week to limit mask exports to a maximum of 10 percent of its total output before imposing a full export ban.
South Korea is currently working to increase its daily mask output from 10 million to at least 13 million.
The country last week approved a plan to distribute 50 percent of its protective masks through public retail platforms to meet the soaring demand. On Tuesday, the government hinted it is considering raising the quota to up to 80 percent.
Quarantined ballet star in hot water for romantic getaway to Japan
Korean National Ballet dancer Na Dae-han may lose his job after taking a trip to Japan with his girlfriend when he was supposed to be in self-quarantine last week.
The ballet company had advised all crew who performed in Daegu on Feb. 14 and 15 to go under quarantine for about two weeks, after canceling further performances.
The decision came as the coronavirus cases spiked in the city, and all artists, including Na, 28, were instructed to stay home and report every day after checking body temperature.
But the dancer's trip overseas was discovered when he and his girlfriend posted pictures of themselves on social media, and criticism poured in.
Artistic director Kang Sue-jin released a statement shortly after the news broke Monday, apologizing for "bringing concerns to people at such a dreadful time in the country."
She continues, "We, Korean National Ballet, will proceed with the internal process to impose a serious disciplinary action on the dancer."
An official from the company told news outlet OSEN, Tuesday, that Na is now in self-quarantine after the trip to Japan.
"The disciplinary committee regarding the dancer will be held on Mar. 12," said the official, adding that the dancer could be fired.
Na became familiar to the public through Mnet's romance reality show "Somebody" in 2018. The show invited dancers from various genres to find their romantic partners. Soon after the show ended in 2019, he joined the national company.
I went to Costco today and they ran out of toilet paper, bottled water, paper towels, hand soap, and probably other stuff too. St. Patrick's Day food is out now though, so I got like 3 pounds of corned beef wtf.
source: Yonhap News 1 2 & The Korea Times