South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday he was putting his country on code "Red," its highest alert for infectious diseases, and ordered officials to take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to fight the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 600 people in the country, mostly in the last few days. The step was last taken in 2009. Under the alert, authorities can order the temporary closure of schools and reduce public transportation and flights to and from South Korea. Moon said that the outbreak “has reached a crucial watershed,” and that the next few days will be “critical.” “We shouldn’t be bound by regulations and hesitate to take unprecedented, powerful measures,” he said. South Korea announced 169 more cases of the virus, bringing the country’s total to 602. The country also reported three more fatalities, raising its death toll to six. Elsewhere, per the AP:
- In Italy’s northern Lombardy region, which includes the nation’s financial capital, Milan, the governor announced Sunday that the number of confirmed cases in the region stood at 89. Italy now has 132 cases, including two deaths.
- Venice, which is full of tourists for Carnival events, reported its first two cases, said Veneto Gov. Luca Zaia, whose region includes the lagoon city.
- Mainland China reported 648 new infections for a total of 76,936. The daily death toll fell slightly to 97. In all, 2,442 people have died. The number of new Chinese cases has seesawed daily but has remained under 1,000 for the past four days. The central Chinese city of Wuhan and other parts of Hubei province, where the outbreak first emerged in December, remain under lockdown. More than 80% of the country's cases are in Hubei, where the death toll has also been higher than in the rest of the nation.
- Meanwhile, a diplomatic row erupted after Israel turned back a Korean Air flight with 188 passengers that landed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport Saturday evening after authorities allowed only 11 Israelis to enter the country. The plane returned to South Korea with the rest on Sunday. Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said it was closely monitoring the incident and providing active consular assistance to South Koreans in Israel.
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