New virus cases still worrisome, steady rise continuing in greater Seoul
SEOUL, South Korea’s new virus cases stayed below 40 for the third consecutive day Tuesday, but cluster infections in the densely populous metropolitan area have shown no clear signs of a slowdown and imported cases were also on a steady rise.
The country added 34 new cases, including 21 local infections, raising the total caseload to 12,155, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The tally marked a slight decrease from the 37 additional cases reported Monday.
All but four of the locally transmitted cases were reported in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital, home to half of the country’s population of 50 million. The number of imported cases also surged to a double-digit level.
The number of daily new cases had reached 56 on Friday, which was just one shy from this month’s peak of 57 reported on June 7.
Amid the country’s all-out campaign to fight cluster infections, the number of new cases returned to below 50 the following day, eventually reaching 34 on Sunday.
South Korea has mostly brought the spread of the virus elsewhere under control, but a series of cluster infections tied to religious gatherings and a door-to-door sales firm in Seoul and the adjacent areas have rekindled woes over another spike in the number of new patients.
The country was close to winning the COVID-19 battle in early May, but cases from a nightlife district in Seoul soon emerged, sparking a chain of infections.
Over the past two weeks, the metropolitan area accounted for a whopping 90 percent of newly added COVID-19 cases, with most of them traced to cluster infections.
As of Monday, cases traced to a door-to-door business from the west of Seoul reached 172, up three from the previous day.
Those linked to a warehouse operated by e-commerce giant Coupang increased by five to 152. Cases linked to a sports facility in western Seoul advanced by two to 66.
Virus cases connected to a day care center for seniors in northeastern Seoul rose by three to 22 as well.
Another logistics center in southeastern Seoul, operated by an affiliate of retail giant Lotte Group, reported a new COVID-19 case over the weekend, but no additional cases have been added so far.
South Korea lifted most of its strict social distancing measures nationwide last month, but a continued rise in cluster infections forced health authorities to indefinitely extend toughened infection preventive measures in greater Seoul following a two-week implementation.
The new measures were only supposed to run through Sunday, but South Korea decided to have them in force indefinitely, as group infections in the region showed no signs of a slowdown.
Health authorities also fret over a rise in asymptomatic virus spreaders, who made up 10 percent of newly identified cases this month.
Health authorities said South Korea’s reproduction rate of COVID-19, which refers to an average number of people being infected with the virus by a single patient, “slightly hovers above one.” It marked a drop from the previous estimate of 1.8.
“As shown in China, we can experience a resurgence of the pandemic anytime,” KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Joon-wook said in a briefing. “Elderly people aged 65 and above or those with underlying diseases in the metropolitan area especially need to be careful.”
The number of new imported cases came to 13, raising the total number of such infections to 1,359. It marked the third time this month for such cases to rise by a two-digit number this month.
The number of imported cases added in June has reached 100 so far.
The country reported one more virus-related death, raising the total death toll to 278. The fatality rate reached 2.29 percent.
The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 10,760, up 30 from the previous day. Around 88 percent of South Korean COVID-19 patients have been cured so far.
South Korea has carried out 1,119,767 COVID-19 tests since Jan. 3.
The country decided to extend a state-led mask rationing scheme, originally set to end this month, to mid-July. Citizens, however, are allowed to buy up to 10 masks per week from the current three.
Source: Yonhap News Agency