The Latest: South Korea’s PM recommends churches, gyms close

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A woman wearing a face mask passes by posters about precautions against new coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 21, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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The Latest on the coronaviruspandemic, which has infected more than 275,000 people and killed more than 11,300. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 88,200 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s prime minister has “strongly recommended” the country’s religious facilities, gyms and clubs to close for the next 15 days to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Chung Se-kyun during a nationally televised speech on Saturday said the government plans to use administrative orders to shut down the facilities that remain open but fail to enforce distance between people.

He says the government could also file damage claims against the churches and businesses if they become linked to infections after failing to employ preventive measures.

The Gyeonggi province surrounding capital Seoul has already taken similar steps, issuing administrative orders that required around 140 churches and 15,000 karaokes, computer gaming rooms and clubs to strengthen anti-virus measures.

Gyeonggi governor Lee Jae-myung has said these facilities will be shut down and possibly fined as much as $2,400 if they fail to abide the order, which requires them to ensure that everyone wears masks, sanitizes their hands and maintains distance. They were also ordered to block anyone exhibiting fever or respiratory symptoms and keep a record of visitors’ names, contact points and when they came.

While South Korea’s epidemic has slowed from earlier this month when it was reporting hundreds of new cases a day, there are growing concerns about a steady rise in infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live. Seoul, Gyeonggi province and Incheon have so far reported 675 cases combined.

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