The Korea Herald
So far, 13 people have died in South Korea from the virus that emerged in China.
South Korea confirmed its first new coronavirus case from a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, on Jan. 20.
More than half of newly confirmed cases are linked to a branch of a religious sect in the southeastern city of Daegu.
Of the 256 new cases, 182 are in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and 49 are in the neighboring North Gyeongsang Province. The total number of infections in Daegu and North Gyeongsang stands at 1,314 and 394, respectively.
Other major provinces and cities have also reported some infections, with Seoul reporting another six cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
Daejeon and Busan counted four and two new cases, respectively, while Gyeonggi and South Gyeongsang provinces reported four and three more, respectively.
Since raising the virus alert level to "red," the highest level, on Sunday, health authorities have focused on halting the spread of the virus in Daegu, the epicenter of the virus outbreak here, and North Gyeongsang Province.
Experts said the number of confirmed cases is expected to jump in the coming days as health authorities have begun testing more than 210,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus at the center of the rapid spread in other provinces.
Since the first outbreak on Jan. 20 in South Korea, the pace of infections had not been alarming until Feb. 18, when a 61-year-old woman who is tied to the Daegu religious sect tested positive for the virus.
Since then, the nation has seen an explosion in infections as it accelerated virus tests on potential cases.
South Korea has released 26 fully recovered novel coronavirus patients from hospitals as of Friday morning, the KCDC said.
The number of people being checked for the virus and under quarantine came to 24,751, it added. The country has tested a total of 68,918 suspected cases, with 44,167 testing negative. (Yonhap)