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Virus fight at inflection point over cluster infections in greater Seoul

All News 10:19 June 09, 2020

SEOUL, June 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is ratcheting up efforts to stem the further spread of the new coronavirus in the capital region amid concerns over a potential hike in new cases traced to cluster infections.

The country added 38 new cases, including 35 local infections on Tuesday, raising the total caseload to 11,852, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). It marked daily new cases of below 40 for the second straight day, and a slight decrease from 57 cases a day earlier and 51 on Saturday.

All but two of the locally transmitted cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area.

Students at Wonmook High School in Seoul's northeastern ward of Jungnang line up to get tested for the new coronavirus on June 8, 2020, as one of its students tested positive. (Yonhap)

South Korea has been wrestling with multiple, sporadic cluster infections tied to religious gatherings, nightclubs and a logistics center in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan area after the country relaxed its social distancing scheme on May 6.

Infections traced to a warehouse run by e-commerce leader Coupang in Bucheon, just west of Seoul, reached 138 as of noon Monday. Those linked to small churches and religious sessions in the densely populated metropolitan area reached 86.

Virus cases linked to a door-to-door business retailer and sports-related facilities have emerged as new infection clusters, spawning concerns over further community spread in the metropolitan area.

COVID-19 cases tied to a door-to-door business establishment reached 52 as of noon Monday. Those linked to a table tennis gym in southwestern Seoul came in at 41.

According to health authorities, at least nine cases have been traced to a shelter for Korean-Chinese people in western Seoul.

Health officials remain on high alert, as such facilities for foreign migrants appear to be the blind spot in quarantine efforts.

A health worker prepares to conduct new coronavirus tests on June 8, 2020, at a makeshift test site set up at a shelter for Korean-Chinese people in western Seoul. (Yonhap)

The string of cluster infections in Seoul and nearby areas came as the country completed its phased reopening of schools Monday, giving the go-ahead for students to return to their classrooms.

But concerns about cluster infections at schools linger, as hundreds of schools in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province have delayed their reopening due to virus cases.

The country's eased social distancing scheme is in peril in the face of a steady rise in new cases.

South Korea has decided to beef up quarantine measures in the Seoul metropolitan area, shutting down public facilities and regulating entertainment establishments until June 14.

The country, meanwhile, added three imported cases and reported one additional death, raising the total death toll to 274. The fatality rate was 2.31 percent.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 10,589, up 26 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 1,035,997 tests since Jan. 3.


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