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(3rd LD) Concerns over new infections grip capital area

All News 19:11 March 30, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES figures in paras 7, 11; ADDS details in para 8)

SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) -- New infections reported in the wider Seoul area surpassed those in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak here, on Monday, spurring concerns over transmission in the capital area that is home to half of the South Korean population.

New COVID-19 infections reported in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon totaled 31, bringing the total number of cases in the metropolitan area to 947, according to data compiled by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Health authorities guide passengers arriving from London and Frankfurt at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on March 29, 2020. (Yonhap)

This marked the second straight day that the number of new infections in the capital surpassed that in the southeastern city of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, where nearly 8,000 cases have been reported.

A total of 25 cases were reported in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, according to the KCDC data. The two areas also reported 25 new cases the previous day, while 42 cases were reported in the capital area.

A majority of the recent cases reported in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, a port city just west of Seoul, are believed to be imported cases, as South Koreans living abroad flocked back to their home country to evade the contagious virus.

Around 70 percent of those who recently returned to the country are based in the wider Seoul metropolitan area, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Friday, stressing that containing the virus in the area would decide "winning or losing" the fight against the virus.

This photo, taken March 28, 2020, shows Manmin Central Church in the southwestern ward of Guro where group infections occurred. The ward office has temporarily closed the church. (Yonhap)

Separate data compiled by the Seoul Metropolitan Government showed that 126 of the estimated 448 patients in the country's capital are associated with imported cases.

This is currently the biggest source of infection identified among cases reported in the city. The city's data includes cases that were reported before 6 p.m. Monday, while the KDCD's includes those reported before midnight.

Other major infection clusters in the city include a call center and a church, both located in the southwestern Seoul ward of Guro.

A total of 96 cases have been reported in relation to the call center, where outsourced workers reportedly worked in narrow booths in a packed office.

Another 27 cases were traced to Manmin Central Church. While the church has held online services since early March, the infections are believed to have occurred among members who were preparing for the online service.

By district, the southern ward of Gangnam reported the highest number of cases at 38, followed by Guro at 31. Cases in the eastern ward of Dongdaemum, where group transmissions were reported at a church and an internet cafe, totaled 26.

South Korea has reported 9,661 coronavirus cases so far, according to the KCDC data. A total of 158 have died, and 5,228 have been released after recovery.

mlee@yna.co.kr
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