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(3rd LD) S. Korea reports fewer than 15 new coronavirus infections for 8th day

All News 20:16 April 26, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS health minister's comments, more info in paras 8-10, photo)

SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported fewer than 15 new daily infections of the new coronavirus for the eighth day in a row Sunday, with health officials calling for people to comply with social distancing guidelines.

The 10 new cases, which were detected Saturday, brought the nation's total infections to 10,728, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC)

South Korea has recorded around 10 or fewer daily new cases since April 18, a sharp drop from the Feb. 29 peak of 909. But health authorities remain on high alert over cluster infections at churches and hospitals, as well as new cases coming from overseas.

Applicants for an insurance sales license take a test, postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, on the athletics field of Myeonggi College campus in Seoul on April 25, 2020. (Yonhap)

The nation's death toll from the coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, rose by two to 242, according to the KCDC. In total, 8,717 people in South Korea have recovered from the virus.

The total number of cases reported in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province reached 6,846 and 1,364, respectively.

Other major provinces and cities also reported infections, with Busan and Gyeonggi Province adding one and six new cases, respectively.

The country also detected one new case coming from overseas at border checkpoints, raising the country's total number of imported cases to 1,037.

"If the current trend of the outbreak continues, the number of quarantined patients is expected to be below 1,000 in around end-May or early June," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said.

The government has been working on a plan regarding the management of community clinics and hospitals reserved for coronavirus patients in order to reflect the changing situation, he added.

The number of hospitals in charge of virus patients will be reduced in phases from around 7,500 beds to around 2,000, which will allow the authorities to better treat those suffering from other illnesses, according to the authorities.

KCDC Director-General Jeong Eun-kyeong said a total of 263 people who had been declared cured tested positive for the virus again.

Jeong has said there might have been a "reactivation" of the virus among the people, not "reinfection," because they tested positive soon after they were released from isolation facilities.

Jeong said it has not been confirmed whether the 263 people can spread the virus again.

Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency, said a loosening attitude on social distancing guidelines is the biggest enemy in combating the coronavirus pandemic, as tens of thousands of people plan to visit the southern resort island of Jeju during the holiday starting later this month.

South Korea eased some restrictions in the guidelines last Sunday, but officials have warned that a new wave of infections could come at anytime because the virus can spread through people who have no symptoms.

During the upcoming holiday period between Thursday and May 5, about 180,000 people are estimated to visit Jeju Island, the nation's popular tourist destination with its beaches and ancient volcanic cones, Kim said.

"In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the biggest dangerous factor is a loosening social attitude," Kim said.

"An increase in outdoor activities could become the kindling for a large-scale transmission," Kim said, urging people to practice social distancing guidelines until May 5.

Citizens visit Hangang Park in Seoul on April 26, 2020, the first Sunday since the government eased its social distancing rules amid a slowdown in new coronavirus cases. (Yonhap)

kdh@yna.co.kr
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