COVID-19: Avoid non-essential travel to South Korea's Daegu city, Cheongdo county, says MOH

South Korean health officials spray disinfectant in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the south-eastern city of Daegu on Friday (21 February). (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has advised members of the public to avoid non-essential travel to Daegu city and Cheongdo county in South Korea following a spike in the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the country.

People have also been encouraged to “continue to exercise caution when travelling to the rest of the Republic of Korea”, said the ministry in a news release on Sunday (23 February).

“In view of the heightened risk of transmission from travellers arriving from Daegu and Cheongdo, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce has assessed that it is prudent to take additional precautionary measures to limit the potential risk that travellers arriving from these affected regions pose to Singapore,” said MOH.

The ministry noted that both places in South Korea have been designated as “special care zones” and that measures have been enacted there to reduce the risk of further transmission.

Singapore residents who need to travel to the affected areas are advised to regularly check the MOH website (www.moh.gov.sg) for updates. Those in South Korea should also monitor developments and heed the advice of local authorities.

Suspect case definition expanded

As of Sunday, the ministry’s definition of suspect cases will also be expanded to include “persons with pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness” who have been to Daegu and Cheongdo with 14 days before the onset of symptoms.

“From 23 February, cases meeting the expanded definition above will be referred to hospitals for further assessment. Officers will also look out for such travellers with respiratory symptoms at the aerobridges for flights coming from South Korea and at immigration checks,” said MOH.

“Travellers with recent travel history to Daegu and Cheongdo will be asked to identify themselves.”

Health advisory notices will also be issued to all travellers arriving at Changi Airport from South Korea to advise them on the precautionary measures to take while travelling to or arriving from the affected regions.

The ministry added that the previously announced travel advisory for Singaporeans to defer all travel to Hubei Province and all non-essential travel to mainland China remains in place.

556 cases in South Korea

In the release, MOH noted that as of noon on Sunday, South Korea had reported 556 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 306 linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu and 114 from Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo. Five cases are not linked to any of the other cases.

South Korea President Moon Jae-in also announced on Sunday that the country would be raising its disease alert by one notch to the highest level, according to global media reports. This came following the reporting of 169 new cases and three new coronavirus deaths – taking the toll to five – on the same day.

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