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(3rd LD) S. Korea's virus cases stay in single-digit, with no new local infections

All News 14:40 May 02, 2020

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SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea recorded fewer than 10 new daily coronavirus infections for the fourth day in a row Saturday, giving a green light for the country's plan to loosen social-distancing guidelines in the coming days.

The six new daily infections increased the total number of cases to 10,780, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The daily figure peaked on Feb. 29 at 909.

With clear signs of a slowdown in the number of people infected locally, South Korea is vigilantly guarding against imported cases.

All new cases announced Saturday were imported, raising the country's total number of such cases to 1,081. More than 90 percent of the patients from the imported cases were South Korean nationals.

Over the past two weeks, imported cases accounted for nearly 70 percent of new infections.

An army conscript disinfects a classroom at an elementary school in the southeastern city of Daegu on May 1, 2020, as part of efforts to prevent coronavirus infections among children. The country is preparing for the physical reopening of schools after weeks of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)

From April 24 to 30, health authorities said a daily average of 2,663 South Korean nationals entered the country. Those in their 20s or 30s accounted for 36 percent of the total.

The average number of foreigners visiting South Korea on a daily basis came to around 750 over the period.

Health authorities, however, are still calling for people to comply with social distancing guidelines during the holiday that runs through Tuesday.

Mass infections account for more than 80 percent of COVID-19 cases here.

The nation's death toll from the virus rose by two to 250.

The overall fatality rate reached 2.32 percent. The figure, however, reached 24.7 percent for patients in their 80s and above.

In total, 9,123 people in South Korea have recovered from the virus, up 51 from a day earlier.

Daegu, the nation's worst virus-hit region located 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, added no new cases. The city accounts for 64 percent of the nation's total COVID-19 cases.

Health authorities have carried out tests on 627,562 people since Jan. 3, including 4,493 examinations from a day earlier. The country reported its first COVID-19 case on Jan. 20.

The country completed tests on 6,544 people, including medical staff from hospitals in the Seoul metropolitan area. All of them tested negative for the virus.

Concerning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) emergency approval on the use of Remdesivir, an Ebola virus drug, to treat the new coronavirus, South Korea said it is still closely monitoring the ongoing clinical tests.

"South Korea is also carrying out clinical tests (on Remdesivir)," KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook said. "Health authorities are working closely with related bodies to follow up on the tests, while preparing to promptly import the drug in case of contingencies."

"Although there are controversies among experts, it is still significant that a reputable U.S. agency, like the FDA, has granted emergency approval," Kwon added.

The number of relapse cases came to 335 as of Saturday.

South Korea plans to maintain its eased distribution scheme on the public supply of protective masks launched this week, allowing people to buy three masks per week, compared to the previous two.

South Korea plans to loosen the country's social distancing mandate after the holidays if the numbers remain flat until Tuesday.

The country plans to announce on Sunday whether it will move on to what it calls "everyday life quarantine," meaning schools and workplaces can go back to normal routine with some precautionary measures attached.

Health authorities, however, say that even if the country decides to ease its social-distancing drive, it does not necessarily mean that South Korea has vanquished the COVID-19 pandemic.

A second wave of infections may hit the country hard again later this year, they added.

"Although the number of new patients is decreasing, we are concerned that there are still a few patients whose infection routes are unidentified," an official from the health ministry said during a daily briefing, warning that another cluster infection can happen anytime.

"We urge South Koreans currently on vacation to follow social distancing guidelines and wear protective masks," the official added.

The country also plans to beef up efforts to protect vulnerable people from the virus, with measures including delaying crackdowns against undocumented foreign migrant workers.

South Korea added it is currently working to remove information from press releases distributed since the pandemic began that could violate the privacy of patients.

Workers spray disinfectant on seats at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on May 1, 2020, four days ahead of the opening of the baseball season. The season will run without spectators in an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. (Yonhap)


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