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President Moon raises COVID-19 alert level to "serious" Updated: 2020-02-23 15:06:19 KST

South Korea has raised its COVID-19 alert level to "serious," following a sharp hike in the number of new cases over the past few days.
That's the highest level in the country's four-tier system and the first time in 11 years that the country has raised the alert to "serious."
During a pan-ministry meeting on Sunday, President Moon Jae-in called for a strong and unprecedented response to contain the virus.

The next few days from now will be a critical moment. We have to treat those infected as swiftly as possible, while blocking the spread. It has become a crucial juncture for the central and local governments, quarantine authorities, medical staff and the people to unite and take full efforts.
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The president noted that the situation had become worse following mass infections involving those linked to a religious group known as "Shincheonji."
More than two-thirds of confirmed cases are linked to the group.
Moon said that health authorities are taking special steps, adding that once an extensive inspection into thousands of worshippers is complete -- the country will likely see a drop in the number of new cases.
The president called on people to refrain from taking part in group events, including religious activities -- saying that it's for the people's safety as the virus can spread easily under such conditions.
Moon also called for cooperation from members of "Shincheonji."

"We are not restricting freedom of religion but rather protecting people's lives and safety. We ask you to refrain from collective activities not only indoors but outdoors that could pose a risk to others.
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President Moon also called on the government to seek ways to provide full support to the city of Daegu and county of Cheongdo -- in the country's southeast -- after the spike in new patients in those regions has raised concerns that medical services may be become exhausted.
The two areas have been designated as special care zones.

While the president noted that the situation was grave he expressed confidence that the government has the capability to control the spread of the virus.
Moon also called on the public to shrug off full-blown fears, adding that together with trust and cooperation -- the country will be able to overcome the outbreak.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.
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