Mass infection feared at a Korean hospital in Cheongdo

Cheongdo Daenam Hospital. (Yonhap)

KOREA, Feb 20 (The Korea Herald/ANN) -- A hospital in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province, could emerge as the new cluster of COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea, after a total of 15 people, including a man who died Wednesday, were confirmed to have contracted the virus.

The deceased was in his 60s and had been under treatment at Cheongdo Daenam Hospital for 20 years. He died the previous day, according to health officials. The patient suffered pneumonia-like illness before death and was confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19 through a posthumous test. The exact cause of death is yet to be identified, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We ask anyone who has had any contact with the hospital to self-isolate, ” KCDC Director Jung Eun-kyeong said at a news briefing.

KCDC officials worry of a possible mass infection there, since patients infected with COVID-19 are those who have been hospitalized there for a long time.

South Korea reported 53 new cases of the novel coronavirus, the largest daily tally in a single day, bringing the total here to 104.

From the hospital in Cheongdo alone, 13 new cases were confirmed, bringing the number to 15, including the two that was confirmed the previous day.

Two other men, who are in the 50s, were confirmed with COVID-19 on Wednesday. They are being treated at Dongguk University Gyeongju Hospital in Gyeongju, near Cheongdo.

They were hospitalized in a locked psychiatric ward of the hospital and had not left the hospital for the past month, raising questions on how the two became contracted, and further concern as it could affect more inside the closed unit of the hospital.

The KCDC said contact tracing and further investigation is underway to determine how the infection was spread.

The authorities also revealed that the country’s 31st patient, a 61-year-old woman, who is presumed to have infected about 37 people at the church service she attended in Daegu, visited Cheongdo early this month.

It was also reported that several groups of the church members visited Cheongdo on a regular basis for voluenteeer works.

An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine whether she is linked to the hospital cases in Cheongdo, south of Daegu.

So far, a church in Daegu is the largest cluster of the virus, with 43 cases.

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