South Korea reported 516 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infected patients to 5,328, including 32 deaths. China, once the leading source of cases, recorded only 119 new cases.
Nearly 90 percent of the South Korean patients were residents of Daegu, a southeastern city, and nearby towns. In Daegu alone, there were 4,006 patients, but more than half were still waiting for hospital beds. Most of the patients, the authorities said, showed only mild symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Heath officials on Wednesday began transporting patients to government, corporate and religious sites, where rooms were refitted to serve as temporary clinics. They also transported more serious patients to military and state-run hospitals in nearby cities and provinces.
“Daegu is in a very difficult situation,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in the city on Wednesday. Hundreds of newly commissioned military doctors and nurses were being flown into Daegu to help the disease-control operations, he said.
“We can win this war against Covid-19 when we all fight together,” he added.
South Korea has tested more than 130,000 people for the virus, as it has raced to find and isolate infected people. Across the country, the government is operating 48 drive-through testing centers, where people can be examined without getting out of their cars, in an effort to limit the chances of exposure to others.
As his government declared an all-out campaign against what has become the biggest epidemic outbreak outside of China, President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday that he was canceling his trips to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey, originally scheduled for this month.
Mr. Moon apologized for shortages of face masks on Tuesday, as people formed long lines outside retail stores and pharmacies. He upbraided his cabinet ministers to be “more sensitive” to the public’s needs and to “not sit at your desks, but get out to the field.”
Reporting was contributed by Maria Abi-Habib, Marc Santora, Iliana Magra, Aurelien Breeden, Amy Qin, Sui-Lee Wee, Choe Sang-Hun, Katie Rogers, Christina Goldbaum, Vindu Goel, Reed Abelson, Sopan Deb, Mike Isaac, Karen Weisse, Paul Mozur, Keith Bradsher, Elaine Yu and Sarah Kliff.
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