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Coronavirus: South Korea raises alert level to its highest amid cases boom

A sharp fall in new deaths and cases of the coronavirus has been reported in China, but world health officials warn it is too early to make predictions about the outbreak as infections rise elsewhere.
Chinese authorities say the mainland had 397 new confirmed cases on Friday, down from 889 a day earlier.
The numbers surged elsewhere, though, with outbreaks worsening in South Korea, Iran, Italy and Lebanon.
In South Korea, new coronavirus cases jumped by 123 to 556 on Sunday and the death toll rose to five, according to the Korea Centres for Disease and Control and Prevention (KCDC).
More than half the additional cases were found to be linked to a Shincheonji Church of Jesus congregation in the southeastern city of Daegu after a 61-year-old woman known as “Patient 31” who attended services at the church tested positive for the virus last week. The woman had no recent record of overseas travel.
A majority of 309 or 55.6 per cent of the total 556 confirmed cases were linked to the Shincheonji Church, the KCDC said.
In response, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in says the government will raise the country’s disease alert by one notch to the highest level in a bid to contain the surge.
KCDC has also designated both the city of Daegu and Cheongdo county as “special care zones” on Friday.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation welcomed the reported decline in new Chinese cases, but said it was concerned about the number of new infections elsewhere with no clear link to China such as travel history or contact with a confirmed case.
“Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The UN agency is calling for $US675 million ($A1 billion) to support most vulnerable countries, he said, adding 13 countries in Africa are seen as a priority because of their links to China.
In total, China has reported 75,569 cases to the WHO, and 2239 deaths.
In Australia, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has risen to 22, including 10 people who have recovered from the illness.
Seven cases have now been confirmed among the group of 164 who are being kept at the Howard Springs quarantine camp near Darwin after leaving the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama.
According to available data, the disease remains mild in 80 per cent of patients, and severe or critical in 20 per cent. The virus has been fatal in two per cent of reported cases.
The disease has spread to some 26 countries and territories outside mainland China, killing 13 people, according to a Reuters tally.
The latest Chinese figures showed only 31 of the new cases on Friday were outside of the virus epicentre of Hubei province, the lowest number since the National Health Commission started compiling nationwide data a month ago.
But new, albeit isolated, findings about the coronavirus could complicate efforts to thwart it, including the Hubei government’s announcement on Saturday that an elderly man took 27 days to show symptoms after infection, almost twice the presumed 14-day incubation period.