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Seoul, February 24, 2020
South Korea reported its seventh coronavirus death and 161 new confirmed cases on Monday bringing the total number to 763, with health authorities vowing to contain the spread of the virus in the southwestern city of Daegu where more than half of the total cases were reported.
Daegu, where 2.5 million people are asked to stay indoors, saw its confirmed cases jump by 131 to 457 on Monday morning, despite efforts to stem the spread of the virus, Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.
Although health authorities voiced hope that the virus can be contained, experts said the virus may have spread more widely nationwide as cases with no clear links to China or confirmed cases continued to be discovered in Seoul and other regions.
Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters: "If authorities fail to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Daegu, there is a high possibility that COVID-19 could spread nationwide."
Despite an alarming surge in confirmed cases in recent days, the government has no plan to expand entry bans on foreign nationals from China's other provinces, officials said.
Currently, South Korea has banned foreign nationals entering the country from China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
A petition calling for President Moon Jae-in to expand entry bans to China's other provinces has exceeded 700,000.
On Sunday, South Korea raised its virus alert to the highest, or "red," level -- the first time it has done so since the 2009 outbreak of H1N1 swine flu.
Two clusters of infections -- at a branch of the Daegu-based Shincheonji church and a hospital in its neighboring county of Cheongdo -- have continued to rise sharply, taking up more than half of the total cases in the country, said Yonhap News Agency.
Authorities said they have acquired a list of members from the Daegu-based Shincheonji church and were closely monitoring them.
The KCDC earlier said it has placed more than 9,334 Shincheonji members in self-quarantine. Of them, 1,248 have shown COVID-19-related symptoms.