Coronavirus cases in South Korea surge; CDC recommends avoiding travel to South Korea

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a department store in Daegu, South Korea, Feb. 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy ABC News).

(ABC News)

South Korea is reporting a total of 833 cases of coronavirus as of 4 pm Monday. That is a 16-increase rise in just five days, according to ABC News.

Eight people have died.

A 61-year-old female dependent member of the U.S. Forces Korea has also tested positive, according to a statement released by U.S. Forces Korea.

Almost 60% of all confirmed cases are from the Daegu area.

Fear grips Daegu

Hundreds lined up outside the E-mart store in Daegu before its opening on Monday morning as the supermarket chain is selling a high-demand item: face masks. Twenty-one million face masks were sold in two locations on Monday alone, and sales are now limited to 30 masks per person.

In this city of 2.5 million residents, an eerie silence lies in the streets, businesses hang “closed” signs, and there are just a small number of people out to find daily necessities. The residents — and anyone who has visited the area — are advised to stay home and minimize movement outdoors for the next two weeks.

Daegu has been designated a “special management zone”, along with a nearby hospital where six patients died due to the latest novel coronavirus outbreak.

Health authorities are struggling to keep up with the growing number of confirmed patients; hospitals in and around Daegu area are quickly preparing wards, and the government is looking for medical staff volunteers to help with the unprecedented crisis.

“For now, we have 240 beds prepared for coronavirus patients. Not all patients at this hospital are in negative pressure rooms; it’s more important that we isolate the infected patients and monitor their conditions,” Dr. Chung Woojin, who is in charge of the coronavirus situation at the Keimyung University Dongsan Hospital, told ABC News.

Fear disrupts daily lives

There is nationwide fear that the outbreak may be getting out of control.

All public schools, which are currently on winter vacation, will resume classes a week delayed on March 9. Movie theaters are empty, scheduled concerts and sports events have been postponed or canceled, and the National Assembly canceling its plenary session after the building was closed for 24 hours when a confirmed patient attended a forum there.

Samsung and SK — South Korea’s largest conglomerates, employing hundreds of thousands of workers — have said that all employees, except for essential staff, should be working from home until further notice.

CDC – Avoid Nonessential Travel to South Korea

The CDC has raised its travel advisory for Korea to its highest level – ‘Warning – Level 3‘, Avoid Nonessential Travel – Widespread Community Transmission’.

                CDC Travel Alert Levels
Warning – Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel – Widespread Community Transmission
Alert      – Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch    – Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

The CDC warns that there is a widespread, ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus that can be spread from person to person.

Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease and there is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas. (ABC News)