S Korea reports 84 new coronavirus cases

South Korean health authorities have announced 84 new cases of coronavirus in the country.
South Korean health authorities have announced 84 new cases of coronavirus in the country.

South Korean health authorities say they aim to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the centre of a surge of new coronavirus cases that has taken the country's tally to 977

South Korea's fast-spreading outbreak has fuelled fears that the coronavirus, which is believed to have begun in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, is developing into a global pandemic.

About 60 per cent of South Korea's cases have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, where the first case was reported in a 61-year-old woman, but it is not known how she became infected.

Of 84 new cases reported on Tuesday, 16 were in the southeastern city of Daegu, where the church is located, and 33 from nearby North Gyeongsang Province, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.

South Korea also reported its ninth death from the virus, a patient from a hospital in North Gyeongsang Province.

The leader of the Shincheonji Church said it had agreed to provide authorities with the names of all its members in South Korea, estimated by media at about 215,000 people.

The government would conduct coronavirus tests on all members "as soon as possible" once it got the information, the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Vice Health Minister Kim Kang-lip said the priority was to test some 1300 of the 9200 members of the Daegu church who are showing symptoms, which he said would be completed by Wednesday.

"We will make utmost efforts with the goal of stabilising the situation in Daegu within four weeks," he told a briefing, adding that the government would trace all other Daegu citizens having symptoms for isolation and checks.

The church, which has faced public criticism of its handling of the outbreak, asked the government to ensure the personal details of its members did not become public.

The church founder and self-proclaimed messiah, Lee Man-hee, said the church was cooperating with the government to stop the outbreak.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, raised its warning level for South Korea and recommended Americans avoid all non-essential travel to the country, citing the "widespread, ongoing outbreak".

The US and South Korean militaries said they were considering scaling back joint training due, in one of the first concrete signs of the virus' fallout on global US military activities.

Australian Associated Press