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(2nd LD) S. Korea's daily COVID-19 tally drops below 40 amid push to contain logistics center cluster infection

Welfare/Medicine 11:42 May 30, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 8-10, 14)

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily number of new coronavirus cases dropped below 40 Saturday, amid a stepped-up push to contain cluster infections traced to a distribution center just west of Seoul and fend off a potential virus resurgence.

The country logged 39 additional COVID-19 cases, including 27 local cases, bringing the total caseload to 11,441, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The latest tally was down from the nearly two-month high of 79 on Thursday. But the authorities remained on high alert amid concerns recent bouts of infections could hamper efforts to return to normal after months of the grueling fight against the pandemic that has disrupted daily life and dented economic growth.

The slowdown appears to be attributable to the health and quarantine officials' aggressive campaign to stop the spread of infections from a distribution center of e-commerce leader Coupang in Bucheon.

The facility has emerged as a focus of the country's containment campaign following mass infections traced to clubs and bars in the nightlife district of Itaewon in central Seoul.

As of noon Friday, 102 virus cases were linked to the Coupang center, with the first infection there confirmed last week, the KCDC has said, urging citizens to avoid large crowds and outdoor activities over the weekend.

The cases from the logistics center have laid bare the vulnerabilities of enclosed workplaces, particularly those where social distancing protocols are loosely applied due to heavy workloads.

Alarmed by the spike in virus cases earlier this week, health authorities opted to impose a tighter social distancing campaign in the densely populated metropolitan area -- Seoul and the surrounding areas -- over the next two weeks through June 14.

The drop in new cases in Saturday's tally was a relief for the quarantine authorities fretful over the possible new wave of infections.

Late last week, the daily number of new cases hovered a little over 20 and then dropped below 20 early this week. But the figure shot up to 40 on Wednesday and to 79 the following day, with Friday's tally standing at 58.

The KCDC said that 27 of Saturday's new cases were confirmed in Seoul and its surrounding areas, while the southern cities of Daegu and Gwangju reported two new cases each. Busan, South Jeolla Province and Gwangwon Province added one case apiece.

The country, meanwhile, added 12 imported cases and reported no additional deaths, with the total death toll staying at 269.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 10,398, up 35 from the previous day.

In related news, the defense ministry said that one of the 12 COVID-19 patients in the military, whose infections are linked to the Itaewon district, fully recovered from the infectious disease in the first such recovery case related to the cluster infection.

This photo, taken on May 29, 2020, shows medical workers collecting samples from people for new coronavirus tests at a temporary clinic in central Seoul. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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