Feb 23, 2020 - Health

South Korea raises alert level to red as coronavirus cases exceed 600

A hospital staff member carrying a suspected COVID-19 blood sample case to a medical center in Daegu, South Korea, on Sunday. Photo: Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto via Getty Images

South Korean President Moon Jae-in raised the country's infectious disease alert level on Sunday to red, the highest possible, the New York Times reports, as the number of cases in the country jumped to 602 and the death toll to six.

Why it matters: South Korea now has more cases of COVID-19 than any country outside mainland China and only 32 fewer than the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the latest figures show.

  • The Korean Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention reported Saturday an eightfold increase in cases in four days. Most cases are in the southern cities of Daegu and Cheongdo, which authorities had just declared "special care zones" in the hope of stopping the spread of the virus, per the FT. But this did not happen.

Of note: More than half of those infected are connected to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a "secretive" religious sect, per The Guardian.

U.S. response: The State Department raised its travel advisory for South Korea on Saturday to level 2, recommending travelers exercise increased caution and prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations.

Go deeper: Coronavirus: The latest developments

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Coronavirus dampens cruise travel

The Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama port on Feb. 27. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

Many travelers are delaying or canceling previously scheduled cruise trips, AP reports, as some ships are turned away from ports amid fear of the global coronavirus outbreak.

Context: Two elderly passengers among hundreds quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship died after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, Japan's health ministry reported last week. All guests disembarked the ship on Thursday after being quarantined for weeks, the cruise line said, but roughly 500 employees remained on board as of Thursday.

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Coronavirus shakes the global economy

Health workers spray disinfectant in Seoul on Feb. 24. Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

New cases of the novel coronavirus have rocked asset prices in Japan, South Korea and Italy, as those nations and others have ratcheted up emergency efforts to contain the outbreak.

What's happening: Asian stock markets continued to tank overnight, as South Korea's Kospi dropped nearly 4%, Australia's ASX fell by 2.3% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined by 1.8%. MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan touched its lowest since early February.

State Department warns Americans against cruise ship travel

The Grand Princess cruise ship, carrying 21 people infected with the novel coronavirus, about 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco on Sunday. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department issued an advisory Sunday warning U.S. citizens against traveling on cruise ships after a second vessel carrying American citizens was impacted by cases of the novel coronavirus.

Details: "U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship," the statement warns. "CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment."

Go deeperArrowMar 9, 2020 - Health