Korea reports 1st virus death, warns of community transmission

The deserted shopping malls and cinemas of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million people, became one of the most striking images outside China of an outbreak that worldwide authorities are trying to prevent from spreading into a global pandemic.

Deagu mayor tells residents to stay inside after dozens of new cases confirmed in city.

"Even Dongseong-ro Street - the most crowded centre of the city - is empty", he said, adding that he had tried to buy surgical masks but shops were sold out.

South Korea reported its first death from the novel coronavirus Thursday as a new cluster of infections emerged at a hospital and the country's total number of cases almost doubled to more than 100.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the South Korean man, believed to be about 63 years old, died at a hospital on Wednesday and posthumously tested positive for the virus. The exact cause of death is being investigated, according to the statement.

Daegu's municipal government said 1,001 Shincheonji members who were believed to have attended the same services as the woman had been asked to self-quarantine. Patients and staff there are being tested for the respiratory virus, and the hospital is being disinfected, according to the KCDC.

One case is in the capital Seoul, according to the KCDC.

Jahanpur said all patients were Iranian and the person in the central city of Arak was a doctor from Qom, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

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In all, three more people had tested positive for the virus, an Iranian health ministry spokesman said.

The government has instructed about a thousand other people known to have gone to the church for services to stay at home under an isolation program.

Fast-moving developments this week were a blow to South Korea's hope that the crisis was easing.

A worker from a disinfection service sprays disinfectant in a bus departing to Daegu as part of preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a bus terminal in Ansan.

"Patient 31" attended services at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a fringe group whose founder claims to be the second coming of Jesus and says he was sent to save followers from an apocalypse, the Washington Post reports.

Daegu authorities ordered the shutdown of all kindergartens, while all schools will postpone the beginning of the spring semester scheduled for early March by one week in an unprecedented move, Yonhap said. The Daegu resident had also visited Seoul at the end of January. Local and USA military forces stationed in the city have been forbidden from traveling off base or receiving outside guests. That Daegu church has about 8,000 followers.

This handout picture taken February 19, 2020 shows South Korean health officials wearing protective suits and spraying disinfectant in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the Daegu.

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