Coronavirus outbreak

New infections in South Korea drop to double digits; disaster zones declared

Soldiers cleaning desks with disinfectant in the classroom of a cram school for civil service examinations in Daegu, South Korea. The city has been declared a "special disaster zone", which means the government can subsidise up to 50 per cent of rest
Soldiers cleaning desks with disinfectant in the classroom of a cram school for civil service examinations in Daegu, South Korea. The city has been declared a "special disaster zone", which means the government can subsidise up to 50 per cent of restoration expenses and exempt residents from taxes and utility payments.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL • South Korea yesterday reported 76 new coronavirus cases and three deaths, marking the first time in over three weeks that new cases have dropped to double digits, as President Moon Jae-in declared the hardest-hit provinces "special disaster zones".

It is the first time South Korea has declared a region a disaster zone from an infectious disease and under the status, the government can subsidise up to 50 per cent of restoration expenses and exempt residents from taxes and utility payments.

South Korea now has 8,162 confirmed infections and 75 deaths, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The country has been experiencing a downward trend in new cases, and the latest numbers are significantly lower than the peak of 909 cases reported on Feb 29 and down from the 107 recorded last Saturday.

Citing an extended economic fallout, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said: "We will brace (ourselves) for all possibilities. We will minimise the impact on the economy of the people."

President Moon declared the south-eastern city of Daegu and parts of North Gyeongsang province "special disaster zones", presidential Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok said.

Among the special disaster zones is Cheongdo county, where another cluster of coronavirus cases is located and where South Korea's first victim of the virus died.

A total of 120 patients were released from hospitals and, for the third day in a row, the daily number of those who recovered exceeded that of new cases since the first case was confirmed.

Starting yesterday, South Korea began to subject visitors from France, Germany, Britain, Spain and the Netherlands to a "special entry procedure" - stricter border checks. It had imposed similar rules on travellers coming from China, Italy and Iran.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2020, with the headline 'New infections in South Korea drop to double digits; disaster zones declared'. Print Edition | Subscribe