South Korea now has seven confirmed fatalities from the new coronavirus and total confirmed cases of 763. And new cases are starting to surface by the day, prompting the government to place the country on “red alert”.
The red alert status allows authorities to lock down cities if the number of cases continues to rise. According to Yonhap report, President Moon Jae-in described the coming days as “a very important moment” as the nation continues to struggle to contain the deadly outbreak in the city of Daegu.
“The central government, local governments, health officials and medical personnel and the entire people must wage an all-out, concerted response to the problem,” he said at an emergency meeting government officials to discuss the outbreak.
Daegu, the fourth-largest city in the county, is at the center of the government’s fight against the virus. It is home to the secretive Shincheonji church, where more than 9,000 of its members are in self-quarantine.
So far, the number of cases that can be traced to the church services reached 458, or 60 percent of the total.
Globally, the number of deaths from the virus has risen to 2,465, with at least 78,800 cases. And the South Korean government is not taking any chances. It could order the temporary shutdown of schools and cut flights from and to South Korea if the local situation worsens.
But a travel ban could be harmful to the economy, where the majority nation’s conglomerates have a global presence and where thousands of employees are working abroad, traveling to and from the country for business.
Even as the travel ban has not been imposed, global investors, businessmen, and tourists have, for sure, already canceled their trips to South Korea amidst the coronavirus scare, just as what happened in Hong Kong and Macao in the early days of the virus.
The situation also spooks tech firms and startups that are forced to shelve scheduled meetings, mostly funding-related, and postpone hiring people to contain the outbreak.
Remarks by Pres. Moon(@moonriver365) at Meeting with Municipal and Provincial Superintendents of Education
"Protecting the safety of children is the most important task of the Government and educational authorities."
— The Office of President Moon Jae-in (@TheBlueHouseENG) February 20, 2020
In Silicon Valley, tech firms have expressed concern, but the giants have contingencies in place, such as offices in other countries that they can tap for operation should the virus spreads further at headquarters.
Asia has recently seen a dive in the number of funding and investment deals since the virus surfaced in Wuhan in December. Several tech conferences and gatherings have also been canceled, including the SCMP China Conference earlier set on February 18-19 in the Philippine capital Manila.
In business, a firm handshake means a deal is sealed, but the coronavirus is preventing people from doing further business meetings and attending gatherings. In a situation where a handshake could literally mean life or death, business deals could be scarce in South Korea and around the world.