South Korean officials warn of 'emergency' as coronavirus cases soar

South Korean officials are warning of an "emergency" as the number of coronavirus cases in the country soar.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the country had "entered an emergency phase” after 152 coronovirus cases were confirmed in the city of Daegu and neighboring towns on Friday, the AP reported. The area also saw South Korea's first two fatalities from coronavirus.

Daegu, the center of the outbreak in South Korea, is the fourth largest city in the country. It has a population of 2.5 million.


“Our efforts until now had been focused on blocking the illness from entering the country. But we will now shift the focus on preventing the illness from spreading further in local communities," Chung said, according to the AP.

A majority of the new cases link back to a church, where a woman in her 60s attended services before she tested positive for the deadly virus.

Health officials speculate that the woman may have been in contact with around 1,160 people, between her visits to the church, a restaurant and a hospital when she was diagnosed with coronovirus.

According to the report, the streets of the once-busy city of Daegu are now deserted. There were reports that schools had been canceled and many grocery stores have empty shelves. The AP reported that individuals wearing masks have been seen lining up at health clinics to test for the virus.

"Panic is taking hold," a resident, Huh Mi-yeon, told the AP. "People are scared of any situation where they would run into another person."

Across the globe, the coronavirus has infected more than 76,000 people in 27 countries, and more than 2,200 have died.

Despite the overwhelming number of infections, officials studying trends have noticed a downtick in the number of new cases coming from China, the center of the outbreak. China said Friday that 889 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, the AP reported.