New virus cases hover around 30 for 2nd day, electronic wristbands to be used

SEOUL,  South Korea’s new coronavirus cases hovered around 30 for the second straight day Saturday, but health authorities are still staying vigilant over cluster infections, as well as new cases coming from overseas. The country also decided to use electronic wristbands on self-isolation violators.

The 30 new cases, detected Friday and slightly up from 27 a day ago, brought the nation’s total infections to 10,480, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The number of new virus cases in South Korea has been around 50 or fewer this week, a sharp drop from the Feb. 29 peak of 909, with health authorities saying the country’s strict social distancing drive led to the slowdown in new infections.

The nation’s death toll from the new coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, rose by three to 211, according to the KCDC, adding that 47 patients are currently in critical condition.

The number of patients released from quarantine after full recovery reached 7,243, up 126 from a day earlier.

“It’s true that the daily number of new cases is sliding, but we should not let our guard down,” KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook said. “There could be a ‘silent case’ that has yet to be detected. We must stay alert by better monitoring patients and conducting more tests.”

The southeastern city of Daegu, the nation’s worst virus-hit region, added seven new cases, just one day after the city reported no additional cases for the first time in 52 days. Its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province reported three new cases.

The total number of cases reported in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province reached 6,814 and 1,330, respectively.

Other major provinces and cities also reported infections, with Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province adding four and nine new cases, respectively.

The country also detected six new cases coming from overseas at border checkpoints, raising the country’s total number of imported cases to 886.

Since April 1, South Korea has been enforcing a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for all travelers coming from overseas to better contain imported cases.

Of the 1,002 new infections identified in the last two weeks, 500 were imported cases, the KCDC data showed.

Health authorities said so far a total of 95 people who had been declared cured tested positive for COVID-19 again, adding they might be cases of “reactivation” of the virus, not “reinfection.”

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun announced that the government will make self-isolation violators wear electronic wristbands since the number of cases of people breaching the self-quarantine in recent weeks has raised public concerns.

Health authorities plan to start using the wristbands within two weeks but will ask the violators’ permission before actually strapping such a device to their wrist since there is no legal ground to force people to wear it.

If people under self-isolation break quarantine rules, such as going outside without notice and not responding to health check calls, they will face legal actions and will be asked to wear the wristbands for the rest of their quarantine period, the KCDC added.

The device, which the KCDC likes to call a “safe band,” will interconnect with the government’s mobile application for self-isolators. If a person damages the device, it will automatically send a notification to health authorities.

South Korea has vowed no leniency toward those who breach quarantine rules. Violators of self-quarantine rules can face one year in jail or a fine of up to 10 million won (US$8,200). Foreigners could be expelled if they break quarantine rules.

Seeking to reduce the daily number of new infections to below 50, South Korea has extended strict guidelines on social distancing by two weeks to April 19.

Health authorities said they plan to draw a conclusion next week on whether the country should ease its strict social distancing campaign and make a transition to quarantine measures that can allow people to return to their normal daily lives.

So far, South Korea has conducted virus tests on 510,479 people, meaning 1 out of every 100 people here have received the tests.

There are currently no vaccines or cure for the novel coronavirus. The KCDC said it expects South Korean researchers to soon help conduct clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine led by a renowned foreign drug developer, saying there will be a separate announcement when the deal is confirmed.

Health authorities also said they will release guidelines next week for the treatment of coronavirus patients with plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19.

Source Yonhap News Agency

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