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(3rd LD) New virus infections fall below 30 for 5th straight day

All News 15:34 April 17, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in 6th para, last 2 paras, 3rd photo)

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases fell below 30 for the fifth straight day Friday, but health authorities warned against complacency and urged people to keep up social distancing.

The 22 new cases, detected Thursday and unchanged from a day ago, brought the nation's total infections to 10,635, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

South Korea's daily new cases reached a peak on Feb. 29 with 909 confirmed cases, but the country has since managed to flatten the curve of new infections.

In particular, the daily number of new virus cases has been below 50 for the last nine days, with health authorities saying that the country's extensive social distancing campaign began to pay off.

However, health authorities remain on high alert over imported cases as well as cluster infections at churches and hospitals. Of the 22 new cases, 14 of them were from abroad.

They are also keeping an eye on those who have retested positive for COVID-19. The number of relapse cases in the country has reached 163, up 22 from a day ago.

The nation's death toll from the new coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, rose by one to 230, according to the KCDC.

The number of patients released from quarantine after making full recoveries reached 7,829, up 72 from a day earlier.

An LG Chem worker (R) undergoes a body temperature check before boarding a special flight to Poland at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on April 17, 2020. (Yonhap)

The southeastern city of Daegu, the nation's worst virus-hit region, reported no new cases for the first time in a week. Its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province added four more cases.

Other major provinces and cities also reported infections, with Seoul confirming two new cases and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province adding one more case.

The country detected 11 new cases coming from overseas at border checkpoints. The total number of imported cases is now at 983.

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

Starting Friday, all late-night international flights are asked to arrive in South Korea between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., so that travelers from overseas can undergo quarantine inspections quickly and reduce their time spent at airports waiting for transportation.

South Korea has been enforcing strict guidelines on social distancing since March 22, and it recently extended the nationwide campaign by two weeks to Sunday.

Citizens are strongly urged to stay home, except for essential needs or jobs. The government has also strongly recommended people suspend religious gatherings, indoor sports activities and visits to nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

This photo, taken on April 16, 2020, shows military medical officials clad in protective suits preparing to work at a middle school in Daegu. (Yonhap)

The government said it is discussing with experts the introduction of new daily quarantine guidelines that would allow people to return to their daily lives, but social distancing measures are to be maintained.

Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, said some experts suggested that it is too early to ease the country's strict social distancing campaign at this point, considering that many people went outside recently due to Easter and the general elections.

Of the 573 virus cases reported in the last two weeks, 310, or 54.1 percent of them, came from overseas, KCDC Director-General Jeong Eun-kyeong said. However, health authorities have yet to identify transmission routes for 18 cases.

"Because we are seeing lots of imported cases recently, the portion of cases with unknown transmission routes seems to be declining, but I do not think 18 is a small number," Jeong said. "This means the source of infection could be still out there, so we need to reinforce our epidemiological system."

Medical workers check the body temperature of visitors at Bundang Jesaeng Hospital in Seongnam, south of Seoul, on April 17, 2020. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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