Coronavirus fears turn S Korea's Daegu into a ghost town

February 21, 2020 09:32
A woman walks past the branch of a church where a woman known as "Patient 31" attended a service in Daegu, South Korea on Wednesday. Photo: Yonhap via Reuters

The streets of South Korea’s fourth-largest city have been abandoned, with residents holed up indoors after dozens of people caught the new coronavirus in what authorities described as a “super-spreading event” at a church, Reuters reports.

The deserted shopping malls and cinemas of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million people, became one of the most striking images outside China of an outbreak that international authorities are trying stop from becoming a global pandemic.

New research suggesting the virus is more contagious than previously thought added to the alarm.

Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin on Thursday told residents to stay indoors after 90 people who worshipped at one church showed symptoms and dozens of new cases were confirmed.

The church had been attended by a 61-year-old woman who tested positive, known as “Patient 31”. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the outbreak there as a “super-spreading event”.

“We are in an unprecedented crisis,” Kwon told reporters, adding that all members of the church would be tested. “We’ve asked them to stay at home isolated from their families.”

Describing the abandoned streets, resident Kim Geun-woo, 28, told Reuters by telephone: “It’s like someone dropped a bomb in the middle of the city. It looks like a zombie apocalypse.”

South Korea now has 156 confirmed cases of the flu-like virus, and reported its first death.

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