South Korea sees increase in recorded Covid-19 cases

By Associated Press reporters

The number of Covid-19 cases in South Korea has risen by 161 to 763, officials said.

Two more deaths from the strain of coronavirus have also been recorded, bringing the total in the country to seven.

More than 140 of South Korea’s new cases were in and near the city of Daegu, where most of the country’s infections have occurred so far.

The number of deaths in mainland China stands at 2,592, while 77,345 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the country.

While officials in South Korea have expressed hope they could contain the outbreak to the region surrounding Daegu, some experts noted signs of the virus circulating nationwide, including a number of cases in the capital Seoul.

Tourists wearing sanitary masks walk in Milan (Antonio Calanni/AP)

Elsewhere, authorities in Italy have battled to contain Europe’s first major outbreak and Iran reported eight deaths – the highest toll outside of China.

Some of the disease clusters identified in recent days have shown no link to China, a worrying sign of the virus spreading beyond control.

The Iranian health ministry said there were now 43 confirmed cases in Iran, which did not report its first case of the virus until Wednesday.

In Italy’s northern Lombardy region, which includes the nation’s financial capital Milan, the governor announced the number of confirmed cases stood at 110.

Italy now has the latest number of cases outside Asia with 152 cases and three deaths with the most recent on Sunday.

Warning that China’s virus epidemic is “still grim and complex,” president Xi Jinping called for more efforts to stop the outbreak, revive industry and prevent the disease from disrupting spring planting of crops.

Mr Xi defended the ruling Communist Party’s response as “timely and effective” in a video conference with officials in charge of anti-disease work, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

“The current epidemic situation is still grim and complex,” Xinhua quoted Mr Xi as saying.

“Prevention and control are at the most critical stage.”

People wear masks to help guard against the Coronavirus on a street in Tehran (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his government had increased its anti-virus alert level by one notch to “red,” the highest level.

It allows for the temporary closure of schools and reduced operation of public transportation and flights to and from South Korea.

The new school year in South Korea was postponed by one week until March 9.

Mr Moon said the outbreak “has reached a crucial watershed,” and that the next few days will be critical.

“We shouldn’t be bound by regulations and hesitate to take unprecedented, powerful measures,” he added