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South Korean parliament closed over virus fears

South Korea's National Assembly building was closed as a coronavirus precaution
South Korea's National Assembly building was closed as a coronavirus precaution Ed JONES AFP
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Seoul (AFP)

South Korea's parliament was shut down on Thursday and a group of lawmakers were in self-quarantine as the country recorded more than 400 new coronavirus infections.

The South endured one of the worst early outbreaks of Covid-19 outside mainland China before bringing it broadly under control with extensive tracing and testing, but is now battling several clusters mostly linked to Protestant churches.

Thursday's 441 new cases were mostly in the greater Seoul area and are the latest in a series of near-six-month highs after several weeks with numbers generally in the 30s and 40s.

The National Assembly was closed after a photojournalist who covered a ruling party meeting on Wednesday was later confirmed to have contracted Covid-19.

The result prompted more than 10 top Democrats -- including the party chairman and its parliamentary leader -- to undergo tests and go into self-isolation.

After the meeting the reporter learned that a relative he had met at the weekend had tested positive, and he then had himself tested.

Officials on Wednesday held late-night talks on how to handle the situation and ordered all parliamentary activities suspended from Thursday, with both the assembly and a building housing lawmakers' offices closed.

Opposition parties also cancelled scheduled meetings.

The photographer came in contact with around 50 people at the assembly on Wednesday, 32 of them party lawmakers and officials.

The parliamentary shutdown is the second over coronavirus concerns, after a February closure when an attendee at an event tested positive.

Thursday's infection numbers were the 14th consecutive day of triple-digit increases and brought the country's total to 18,706.

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