SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has reported a six-fold jump in viral infections in four days to 346, most of them linked to a church and a hospital in and around the fourth-largest city where schools were closed and worshipers and others told to avoid mass gatherings.
China meanwhile says the daily count of new virus cases there fell significantly to 397, with another 109 people dying of the disease, most in the epicenter of Hubei province.
The new figures bring the total number of cases in mainland China to 76,288 with 2,345 deaths, as strict quarantine measures and travel bans continue to contain the disease that emerged in China in December and has since spread world-wide.
Italian authorities say the number of people infected with the new virus from China has more than quadrupled in a day due to an emerging cluster of cases in the country’s north.
Many of the new cases represented the first infections in Italy acquired through secondary contagion and brought the country’s total to 17.
The first to fall ill in northern Italy met with someone who had returned from China in January without symptoms. The 38-year-old Italian man is in critical condition.
The man’s wife and a friend also tested positive for the virus. Three patients at the hospital where he went a few days ago and five nurses and doctors acquired the virus as well.
Global stock markets are down after a rise in virus cases in South Korea and other countries refueled investor anxiety about the disease outbreak.
Benchmarks in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney closed down on Friday. Markets in Europe, including London and Frankfurt, were trading lower and Wall Street was expected to dip on the open.
Markets had been gaining on hopes the viral outbreak that began in China might be under control.
Stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data and interest rate cuts by Asian central banks have helped to buoy sentiment. But investors were jarred by South Korea’s report of 52 new cases of the coronavirus.
The Israeli Health Ministry says one of the 11 Israelis who were flown home after being quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan has tested positive for the new virus which emerged in China. It’s the first case to be reported inside Israel.
The Israeli cruise ship passengers, who had all initially tested negative, arrived on a charter plane overnight and were taken to the Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv, where they will be kept in quarantine.
A church whose leader claims he is an angel of Jesus has become the biggest cluster of viral infections in South Korea.
A total of 110 cases of COVID-19 infections have been found in the southeast city of Daegju and nearby areas since Wednesday.
Of those, about 70% have been linked to a Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, where two recent services were attended by a previously confirmed patient.
Little is known about the “patient zero" except that the woman in her early 60s had no recent record of overseas travel and was diagnosed with pneumonia last weekend.
Some 1,000 Shincheonji church followers who attended Sunday services with her have been quarantined at their homes while authorities screen them for the virus.
Iran is reporting two more deaths from the new virus that emerged in China and says the fatalities were from among 13 new confirmed cases of the virus in Iran.
The report on Friday by the semiofficial Mehr news agency came as Iranians voted in nationwide parliamentary elections.
After authorities reported two earlier deaths this week, the death toll from COVID-19, the illness caused by virus, stands at four.
So far, 18 cases have been confirmed in Iran, including the four who died.