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(4th LD) S. Korea again urges social distancing, strict self-isolation amid steady rise in virus cases

All News 23:18 March 27, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 3-4, 16-17; ADDS recommendations by doctors on school opening in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea once again urged people to stay home, avoid mass gatherings over the weekend and comply with self-isolation rules if they returned from abroad, as COVID-19 clusters continued to emerge amid a rise in imported coronavirus cases.

The 91 new cases, which were detected Thursday and down from 104 new cases Wednesday, marked the 16th consecutive day there were around 100 or fewer additional cases, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

There were 9,332 confirmed cases in total, and the death toll rose by eight to 139, with five more people succumbing to the virus during the day. Those fatalities will be officially tallied on Saturday.

The KCDC said 56 virus patients are in critical condition, with the number of imported cases climbing by 13 to reac

The mortality rate stood at 1.49 percent as of Thursday, according to the KCDC. For those aged 80 and above, the fatality rate was 15.19 percent.

Medical workers in protective gear make preparations in front of a testing facility at a hospital in the virus-hit city of Daegu on March 26, 2020. (Yonhap)

South Korea began implementing stricter rules on social distancing Sunday to slow the coronavirus pandemic that emerged in China late last year.

Citizens are strongly urged to stay at home, except for essential needs or jobs, with the government restricting religious gatherings, indoor sports activities and visits to nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

South Korea has enforced a two-week quarantine period and virus tests for all long-term arrivals from Europe, regardless of symptoms, in an effort to contain imported virus cases. Starting Friday, passengers from the U.S. for long-term stay are required to self-isolate at home for two weeks.

Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, said about 40 people have violated rules on self-isolation so far, calling for people coming from abroad to strictly comply with the rules.

South Korea has vowed a "no-tolerance" policy in dealing with violators. Those who are Korean nationals will face lawsuits and foreigners will be expelled.

Travelers from Europe and the U.S. are advised to use their own cars when returning home. If they do not own cars, the government will arrange for them to be transported via buses and trains, Yoon said.

(4th LD) S. Korea again urges social distancing, strict self-isolation amid steady rise in virus cases - 2

Starting Monday, any passenger with a body temperature higher than 37.5 C will be banned from boarding flights to South Korea, officials said.

KCDC Director General Jeong Eun-kyeong said South Korea is considering requiring people coming from Southeast Asian nations to self-isolate at home for two weeks.

Virus cases in Thailand and the Philippines stood at 1,045 and 707, respectively, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, the nation's two worst-affected regions, reported 34 and nine new cases, respectively.

A hospital in Daegu has reported 62 confirmed cases so far, causing all people on one floor to be placed in cohort quarantine. The hospital is adjacent to a nursing home where 57 people were infected.

Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital city, saw the daily number of new infections rise by 26 to 830 Thursday, with authorities in the capital city paying close attention to outbreaks in places of worship, as six congregants of a church in Guro ward have been infected with COVID-19.

So far, 4,528 patients have recovered, and 4,665 are receiving treatment. South Korea has tested 376,961 people since Jan. 3. The virus was first detected in the country on Jan. 20.

Volunteers prepare emergency relief kits packed with basic necessities like instant food at an office of the National Red Cross in Seoul on March 27, 2020, for delivery to impoverished people experiencing difficulties amid the spread of the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

Related to the steady number of people getting sick, the Korean Medical Association released a recommendation calling on education authorities to delay the start of kindergarten and all schools.

The start of school in South Korea, which usually takes place on March 2, has been pushed back to April 6 amid concerns over the coronavirus virus.

The association said that children going to school can cause mass infections and elevate risk of family members getting sick. It then said schools should open based on local conditions and objective data on safety.


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