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(LEAD) S. Korea reports 57 new virus cases, above 50 for 2nd consecutive day

All Headlines 11:59 June 07, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS 2nd photo and details in paras 3-4, 7)

SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported 57 more cases of the new coronavirus Sunday, marking the second straight day the number was above 50, raising concerns over new cluster infections in the densely populated greater Seoul area ahead of the final phase of school reopening.

The new infections raised the country's total caseload to 11,776, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said. This is the highest number of daily infections since the 58 reported May 29.

The recent spike is mainly due to growth in new clusters at table tennis clubs and health product retailer Richway specialized in door-to-door sales for mostly elderly consumers, both based in Seoul, while group infections from nightclubs, a distribution center and religious gatherings continue to pose problems.

The Richway cluster is considered especially risky as a majority of the cases are elderly patients who are more vulnerable to the virus than the younger age groups.

Of the 57 new cases, 53 were community transmissions and four were from abroad.

Of the 53 local cases, all but one were reported in Seoul and adjacent areas. Seoul added 27 cases, while Incheon, west of Seoul, and Gyeonggi Province, surrounding the capital, reported six and 19 cases, respectively, the KCDC said.

The number of new cases appeared to be flattening after hitting 79 on May 28. But the figure started to rise again due to infections reported at small group meetings of Protestant churchgoers in the capital area.

In the first five days of June, new cases remained at around 30-40 per day but rose above 50 on Saturday, sparking worries that the country may have to return to strict social distancing to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This photo taken June 6, 2020, shows medical workers collecting individual samples from students at Incheon Beauty Arts High School in Incheon, west of Seoul, after one of the school's students tested positive for the coronavirus a day earlier. (Yonhap)

The authorities remain on high alert as more South Korean pupils are set to return to classes Monday in the final phase of the government's reopening plan.

Accumulated confirmed cases in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province are closing in on 1,000, reporting 974 and 934, respectively, as of Sunday due to the recent cluster infections in the capital city.

Health authorities plan 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 returning to strict social distancing.

The death toll remained flat at 273, while the number of people released from quarantine after fully recovering totaled 10,552, up 21 from the previous day, according to health authorities.

This photo taken June 7, 2020, shows a table tennis club where a person diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus visited recently in Yangcheon, Seoul. (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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