South Korea reported fewer than 120 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, but authorities warned that a new cluster in Seoul could see the infection spread in the capital.
Around 100 people linked to a call center in the city have tested positive for the virus in recent days.
“This could lead to a ‘super spread’ in the metropolitan area, where half of the entire population are concentrated,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting on Thursday.
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
So far, nearly 90 percent of South Korea’s cases have been in the southern city of Daegu and the neighbouring North Gyeongsang province.
The South was the first country to report significant coronavirus numbers outside China, where the disease first emerged, and remains one of the world’s worst-affected countries despite being overtaken by both Italy and Iran in declared cases.
A total of 114 infections were confirmed Wednesday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said, taking the South’s total to 7,869.
Six more people died, it added, with the toll rising to 66.
Scores of countries have imposed bans or restrictions on arrivals from the South, leading to demand for flights collapsing.
Airlines have cancelled so many routes that there were no international flights on Thursday from Gimpo, Seoul’s secondary airport, for the first time since 2003.
Each morning the South announces how many cases were diagnosed the previous day, and recent figures have been well below the 500-600 increases the country was confirming in early March, raising hopes the outbreak was being brought under control.
“We need the virus of ‘hope’ that will overpower COVID-19,” President Moon Jae-in said on his Facebook page. “We also need to combat the anxiety virus that is as virulent as COVID-19.”
More than 60 percent of the country’s infections are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious sect often condemned as a cult, one of whose members attended at least four services in Daegu before being diagnosed.
Scores of events -- from K-pop concerts to sports matches -- have been cancelled or postponed over the contagion, with school and kindergarten breaks extended by three weeks nationwide.