South Korea confirms 174 new coronavirus cases, total to 6,767

South Korean soldiers carry out disinfection work at the international airport amid the rise in confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Daegu, South Korea, March 6, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s new confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday rose by 174 from late Friday, taking the national tally to 6,767, the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

The death toll remained unchanged at 44 from late Friday, the KCDC added.

The number of the contagious disease has spiked in South Korea since mid-February when a 61-year-old woman known as “Patient 31” tested positive after attending religious services at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China, has spread to more than 90 countries, infecting more than 100,000 people and killing over 3,400 people globally.

South Korea has the highest national tally of confirmed cases outside of China, prompting nearly 100 countries to impose curbs on travelers from South Korea.

On Friday, South Korea said it would suspend visas and visa waivers for Japan in response to Tokyo’s own travel restrictions on Koreans, as fears over the coronavirus reignited a feud between the neighbors dating back to before World War Two.

Dr. Mike Ryan, top emergencies expert of the World Health Organization (WHO), told a briefing in Geneva on Friday that both Japan and South Korea should focus on managing the epidemic and saving lives, but not on “a political spat over travel restrictions.”

The WHO said on Friday all countries should make containing the coronavirus outbreak their top priority.

Reporting by Jane Chung; additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Sandra Maler

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