SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced the government will raise the infectious disease alert to "red," the highest level, following a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus in a matter of days.
Moon, speaking at a special meeting convened with health authorities, said the government could take "powerful measures like never before without being tied to regulations" in order to contain the outbreak.
The president declared the city of Daegu and the neighboring county of Cheongdo "special management zones for infectious diseases," which would allow a full-scale support from the government for personnel, equipment and other supplies needed to fight the epidemic.
Moon said that the situation had dramatically changed after the outbreak tied to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, members of which account for more than half of the country's cases. He appointed Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun to take the lead in a central disaster and safety response committee. Chung on Saturday called on citizens to avoid mass religious events.
"Taking measures to temporarily shut down the Shincheonji facilities is not a suppression of religion but for the sake of the lives and safety of the residents and citizens," Moon said Sunday.
South Korea was last on red alert in 2009, during the H1N1 virus outbreak that resulted in 250 deaths in the country.
(c)2020 Bloomberg News
Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.