South Korea to launch mass coronavirus testing, U.S. pledges $1 billion for vaccine
- 25 February 2020
South Korea aims to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the center of a surge in coronavirus cases 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, APA reports citing Reuters.
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.
Authorities hoped to stabilize the situation in Daegu within four weeks, he added.
Americans should avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea due to the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.
In Japan, which has reported four deaths and 850 cases mostly on a cruise ship docked near Tokyo, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said it was too early to talk about cancelling the Tokyo Summer Olympics due to start on July 24.
Australia’s top Olympic doctor has warned the next fortnight will be the “real test” for the Tokyo Games, as teams draw up contingency plans for pre-Games training in “safe” areas, reported Australian media.
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.