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(2nd LD) New virus cases stay below 30 for 4th straight day

All News 11:57 April 16, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 8-9, 16-20; REPLACES 2nd photo)

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases hovered below 30 for the fourth straight day Thursday, but health authorities are still staying vigilant over imported cases and cluster infections following the parliamentary elections the previous day.

The 22 new cases, detected Wednesday and slightly down from 27 a day ago, brought the nation's total infections to 10,613, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

A teacher uses an online learning program at an empty classroom at an elementary school in Seoul on April 16, 2020, amid the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Yonhap)

Thursday's new virus cases also mark a sharp drop from the Feb. 29 peak of 909 new cases. The country's daily number of new virus cases has been below 50 for the last eight days.

But health authorities remain on high alert over new cases coming from overseas, as well as cluster infections at churches and hospitals. They are also keeping an eye on those who retested positive for COVID-19.

Of the 22 new cases, half of them were from overseas.

The nation's death toll from the new coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, rose by four to 229, according to the KCDC.

The number of patients released from quarantine after making full recoveries reached 7,757, up 141 from a day earlier.

Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said although recent figures related to the novel coronavirus appear to be "positive," the country should not let its guard down after a large number of people went outside to cast their ballots in the parliamentary elections Wednesday.

"The government wants to thank election and health officials for completing the parliamentary elections amid the crisis with a high voter turnout," he said. "But considering the incubation period of COVID-19, we have to wait one or two weeks to see whether our quarantine measures on the voting day have really worked."

Election officials wearing face masks sort ballot papers to count votes for the general elections at a vote-counting center in Busan on April 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

The southeastern city of Daegu, the nation's worst virus-hit region, and its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province each added four new cases.

The total number of cases reported in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province has now reached 6,827 and 1,352, respectively.

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

The country detected four new cases coming from overseas at border checkpoints. The total number of imported cases is now at 967.

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

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 Sunday.
Health officials urged those in self-isolation to keep quarantine rules, as the number of people breaching such rules have raised public concerns.

As of Wednesday, a total of 231 were caught violating self-isolation orders, with 140 of them facing legal actions.

Among 11,151 self-isolating South Koreans who cast their ballots Wednesday, six of them broke quarantine rules, according to health authorities.

The government previously announced that those in self-quarantine would be accompanied by health officials from their isolation facilities to polling stations at a separately designated time, but some of them visited other places without the authorities' permission.

South Korea has vowed to show no leniency toward those who breach quarantine rules. Violators could face up to one year in jail or a fine of up to 10 million won (US$8,200), and they will be asked to wear electronic wristbands for the rest of their quarantine period. Foreigners could be deported if they break quarantine rules.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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