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China is recording so few new coronavirus infections that South Korea looks like the new center of the epidemic

2020-03-04 05:30:38

South Korean soldiers in protective gear by the city hall in Daegu on March 2, 2020.
South Korean soldiers in protective gear by the city hall in Daegu on March 2, 2020.

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The number of daily coronavirus cases reported by China has been in steep decline for around a week — and it means that South Korea now appears to be the new center of the epidemic.

South Korea reported 516 new cases on Wednesday, compared to China’s 130 new cases.

Though China still has more cases active of the coronavirus than any other country, the pace of its spread has slowed sharply, while the number of recoveries has soared.

Meanwhile, South Korea has become the second-most-infected country, experiencing a spread far more rapid than in China, where the virus first started to spread.

South Korea’s first virus case was on January 20. As of Wednesday, it had more than 5,600 cases and 32 deaths.

People wait in line to buy face masks in front of a store at Dongseongro shopping district in Daegu on February 27, 2020.
People wait in line to buy face masks in front of a store at Dongseongro shopping district in Daegu on February 27, 2020.

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

In absolute terms, China is far ahead still, with a total case number of around 80,000 (this does not take into account those who have recovered), and a death toll of 2,981.

But the gap is narrowing.

Elsewhere, Italy and Iran have the highest number of deaths outside of China, with 77 and 79.

Both have reported more than 2,300 cases. The case numbers and death toll in Iran are subject to some doubt after apparent efforts by authorities there to hide the scale of the outbreak. 

South Korea’s medical system is overwhelmed, while the virus appears to have peaked in China

The outbreak in South Korea has largely been traced to a religious group in the city of Daegu.

The city, which is the country’s fourth-largest, has seen its health system overwhelmed.

2,300 people were waiting to get into hospitals and temporary medical treatment centers as of Wednesday, the country’s deputy health minister said, according to Reuters.

Workers in protective gear spray an anti-septic solution to fight the coronavirus in a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, on February 21, 2020.
Workers in protective gear spray an anti-septic solution to fight the coronavirus in a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, on February 21, 2020.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, said in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the “entire nation has entered a state of war against this infectious disease.”

He also apologized for a shortage in face masks, and said: “An explosion in the number of confirmed cases and increasing concern about local infections have made it difficult for supply to keep up with soaring demand, and importing masks is not feasible either.” 

In China, the number of daily cases has slowed.

A World Health Organization expert who visited China at the end of February said the virus appeared to have peaked there, even as its spread around the rest of the world advanced.

China had taken extreme quarantine measures, including locking down cities of many millions of people, in a bid to stop the spread.

It built new hospitals from scratch, deployed many thousands of medics to the worst-hit areas, and imposed sweeping restrictions on travel.

Workers arrange beds in a 2,000-bed mobile hospital set up in an exhibition center in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Feb. 04, 2020.
Workers arrange beds in a 2,000-bed mobile hospital set up in an exhibition center in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Tuesday, Feb. 04, 2020.

Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

In another sign of a potential thaw, China moved towards lifting some of its lockdown measures.

China’s central government said Wednesday that migrant workers outside of the Beijing and Hubei province, where the virus originated, no longer need to go through quarantine procedures if they meet certain criteria.

China has around 300 million migrant workers, but many were stuck in the countryside and unable to go to cities as the virus took hold.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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