South Korea aims to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the center of a surge in coronavirus cases.
Of the new cases, 16 were in the southeastern city of Daegu, where a church at the center of the outbreak is located, and 33 were from North Gyeongsang Province, health officials said.
About 60 percent of South Korea’s cases have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
The leader of the Shincheonji Church said it had agreed to provide authorities with the names of all its members in South Korea, estimated by media at about 215,000 people.
The government would conduct coronavirus tests on all members “as soon as possible” once it got the information, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
“It is essential to test all of the church members in order to contain the spread of the virus and relieve public anxiety,” the office said.
Vice Health Minister Kim Kang-lip said the priority was to test about 1,300 of the 9,200 members of the Daegu church who are showing symptoms, which he said would be completed by Wednesday.
While the United States pledged $2.5 billion to fight the disease, as it spreads rapidly beyond China’s borders to Europe and the Middle East.
Countries around the world are stepping up efforts to prevent a pandemic of the flu-like virus that originated from China late last year and has now infected more than 80,000 people, 10 times more cases than the SARS coronavirus.
Japan’s government urged people to telecommute or work staggered hours to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and Hong Kong media reported that schools in the Asian financial hub would remain closed for another month.
The White House said more than $1 billion would go toward developing a vaccine, with other funds earmarked for therapeutics and the stockpiling of personal protective equipment such as masks.
The U.S. and South Korean militaries said on Monday they may cut back joint training due to mounting concerns about the spreading coronavirus, in one of the first concrete signs of the virus’s fallout on global U.S. military activities.
The disclosure came during a visit to the Pentagon by South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, who acknowledged following talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that 13 South Korean troops had tested positive for the virus.
The U.S. military said a 61-year-old woman in South Korea who tested positive for the virus had recently visited a U.S. military base in the southeastern city of Daegu. It was the first infection connected to U.S. Forces Korea, which counts about 28,500 American troops on the peninsula.
U.S. Forces Korea urged U.S. troops to limit travel and “use extreme caution when traveling off-installation.”
South Korea – which remains technically at war with the nuclear-armed North – has the most virus cases in Asia outside China and reported its ninth death and 60 new cases on Tuesday, for a total of 893 cases.