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South Korea declares ‘war’ on coronavirus as cases approach 5,000

South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared “war” against the coronavirus on Tuesday, placing all government agencies on a 24-hour emergency footing as the country’s total cases — the largest in the world outside China — approached 5,000.

South Korea has seen a rapid rise in infections in recent days and scores of events — from K-pop concerts to sports seasons — have been cancelled or postponed over the contagion, with school and kindergarten breaks extended by three weeks nationwide.

The central bank has warned of negative growth in the first quarter for the world’s 12th-largest economy, noting the epidemic will hit both consumption and exports.

Moon said the government will inject more than 30 trillion won (US$25 billion) into the economy to address the “grave” situation brought on by the outbreak.

“The entire country has entered a war with the infectious disease,” Moon said, ordering all government agencies to operate around the clock.

South Korea confirmed 477 new cases Tuesday, with two more deaths taking the toll to 28, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.