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(2nd LD) Virus fight still dogged by cluster infections ahead of further school reopenings

All News 11:36 June 05, 2020

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SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea continued to report more virus cases linked to religious gatherings in greater Seoul on Friday ahead of further school reopenings next week. Health authorities again urged citizens to stay away from gatherings over the weekend.

The country added 39 more cases of the new coronavirus, including 34 local infections, raising the total caseload to 11,668, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The daily COVID-10 infections remained flat compared to the previous day.

All but three of the newly identified domestic transmissions Friday were reported from Seoul and adjacent areas.

South Korea has been grappling with a series of group infections tied to religious gatherings, nightclubs and a distribution center, after shifting to a relaxed social-distancing scheme since May 6.

A drill for the systematic use of hospital beds is under way at the National Medical Center in Seoul on June 5, 2020, to prepare for possible coronavirus mass infections in metropolitan areas. The drill was arranged by the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters. (Yonhap)

As of Thursday, the number of cases tied to 30 small churches in Incheon, west of Seoul, and Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital city reached 73, up seven from a day earlier, according to the KCDC. The first related case was reported on Sunday.

Of the cases reported from the churches, more than half were secondary transmissions.

The number of infections from clubgoers in the nightlife district of Itaewon reached more than 270. Another 120 cases were linked to a distribution center run by e-commerce leader Coupang, according to the KCDC.

The KCDC said at least 10 virus cases linked to a multi-level marketing business have been also reported so far since Tuesday.

Asymptomatic virus spreaders are also another stumbling block in the country's virus fight. The KCDC estimates around 25-35 percent of patients here tested positive for the coronavirus despite showing no related symptoms.

The country recently rolled out the third phase of its plan to reopen schools, with students in more selected grades returning to their classrooms this week. More students are set to attend in-person classes next week.

A drill for the systematic use of hospital beds is under way at the National Medical Center in Seoul on June 5, 2020, to prepare for possible coronavirus mass infections in metropolitan areas. The drill was arranged by the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters. (Yonhap)

South Korea is still set to carry out its plan to have all students return to schools next week while taking precautionary measures, including reduced class time and a mix of online and offline classes.

The upcoming week will be a crucial juncture in containing further spread.

Earlier, health authorities decided to reinforce social distancing guidelines for the metropolitan area, shuttering public facilities again and ordering entertainment establishments to refrain from opening until June 14.

If the figures from the metropolitan area rise, South Korea will have to consider a return to strict social distancing.

The country reported no new deaths, keeping the death toll at 273.

The fatality rate stood at 2.34 percent. The rate was lower than 1 percent for those aged 59 and below, although it shot up as high as 26.4 percent for patients older than 79.

The accumulated number of imported cases reached 1,280, up five from a day earlier.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 10,506, moving up seven from the previous day. Around 90 percent of local COVID-19 patients have been cured.

South Korea has been carrying out tests on 990,960 people since Jan. 3, including 17,102 from a day earlier.

The country began the supply of "saliva droplet prevention" masks. While the thinner masks are known to prevent less pollutants than thicker and more durable ones, demand has been growing as warmer weather makes it uncomfortable for people to wear them.

colin@yna.co.kr
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