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(3rd LD) New coronavirus infections fall to single digits for first time in 2 months

All News 14:14 April 19, 2020

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SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Sunday reported eight more cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the nation's total infections to 10,661, with the daily increase falling to a single digit for the first time in about two months.

The figure for the cases, detected on Saturday, marked another decrease from a day earlier when the number of new infections reached 18, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Of the eight new cases, five were detected from arrivals from foreign countries. The total number of such cases reached 998, taking up around 9 percent of the overall infections.

After reporting the first case on Jan. 20, the number of daily new cases in the country stayed in the single digits through Feb. 18.

The figure, however, soon skyrocketed, centering on members of a church group in the southeastern city of Daegu and other cluster infections from hospitals.

The number of South Korea's daily new cases reached a peak of 909 on Feb. 29.

On the back of the country's all-out efforts to contain the spread of the virus, including rolling out social distancing measures, the number of new infections announced stayed below 30 from Monday to Friday and slipped to below 20 on Saturday.

Medical workers get ready to enter a special ward for coronavirus patients at Keimyung University Daegu Dongsan Hospital in the southeastern city of Daegu on April 19, 2020. (Yonhap)

Despite the signs of a slowdown, health authorities still remain vigilant over new cases coming from overseas, as well as over those who are retesting positive for COVID-19.

"Although the number of new infections has been decreasing, the decline was made possible due to the social distancing moves made until last week," the KCDC said in a statement. "Considering Easter and the general election, we plan to take a closer look for another week."

South Korea held the general elections on Wednesday. Despite the virus, more than 29 million people cast ballots at polling stations nationwide wearing face masks and plastic gloves.

The KCDC said it will also make efforts to prevent potential cluster infections after three patients were reported from an Army boot camp located in the central city of Nonsan among new enlistees. All three of them were members of the Shincheonji church.

Nearly half of the total infections here have been linked to the church.

The nation's death toll from the novel virus, which emerged in China late last year, rose by two to 234, according to the KCDC.

South Korea's COVID-19 fatality rate reached 2.19 percent. The rate, however, came to 9.65 percent for patients in their 70s and 23.24 percent for those in their 80s.

The number of patients released from quarantine after making full recoveries reached 8,042, up 105 from a day earlier.

Daegu, the nation's worst virus-hit region, added two new cases. Its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province reported only one new case as well.

Daegu, located around 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, currently accounts for around 64 percent of the nation's total cases.

The total number of cases reported in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province reached 6,832 and 1,359, respectively.

Seoul, the most populous city of South Korea, also reported only two new cases, with the surrounding Gyeonggi Province adding no new COVID-19 infections.

South Korea has been enforcing a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for all travelers coming from overseas to better contain imported cases since April 1.

It also has been intensifying its social distancing drive since late March, recommending that churches, sports facilities and clubs suspend operations to curb cluster infections of the virus.

The country is expected to announce soon its decision on whether to further extend the guidance, which is supposed to be in effect until Sunday.

The country has conducted virus tests on 550,109 people so far.

The latest decrease in the number of new infections, however, was also attributable to the smaller number of tests being carried out over the weekend.

Health authorities carried out 4,275 tests on Saturday, which is sharply down from 8,371 posted on Friday.

So far, patients in their 20s have accounted for the largest slice of 27.4 percent of the total infections, followed by those in their 50s and 40s with 18.2 percent and 13.24 percent, respectively.

Medical workers get ready to enter a special ward for coronavirus patients at Keimyung University Daegu Dongsan Hospital in the southeastern city of Daegu on April 19, 2020. (Yonhap)


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