South Korean officials have warned that confirmed cases would rise sharply as they aggressively tested thousands of people, particularly in the southeastern city of Daegu. More than 86 percent of patients have been in Daegu and nearby towns; many have been associated with a church called Shincheonji, which has a strong presence in Daegu.
The United States military, which has more than 28,000 personnel in South Korea, said on Saturday that the spouse of an American soldier infected with the virus had also tested positive for it. She had been in self-quarantine since Wednesday, following her husband’s diagnosis, and was being transported to a military hospital, the military said.
Also on Saturday, Mr. Kim, North Korea’s leader, convened the Politburo of his ruling party to order an all-out campaign to prevent an outbreak, state media reported. The North has not reported any coronavirus cases, but there has been concern that the secretive, totalitarian country could be hiding an outbreak.
“In case the infectious disease spreading beyond control finds its way into our country, it will entail serious consequences,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Mr. Kim as saying. It said that officials had discussed “measures to deter the influx and spread of the infectious disease in a scientific, preemptive and lockdown way.”
North Korea has already closed its 930-mile border with China, where the coronavirus emerged, and its border with Russia. But the Chinese border has long been porous for smugglers, who ferry goods across the shallow river that separates the countries. The North has also suspended all flights and trains to and from China and asked all foreign diplomats not to leave their compounds.
The state media report Saturday also said that Mr. Kim had fired one of his top aides, Ri Man-gon, and another official for corruption, but it was unclear whether the dismissals were connected to the antivirus campaign.