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(LEAD) New virus cases spike again, most traced to cluster infections in greater Seoul

All News 11:43 June 10, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout; CHANGES photos)

SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new virus cases spiked again Wednesday as sporadic cluster infections continued in the greater Seoul area, prodding health authorities to consider more stringent social distancing in the densely populated area.

The country added 50 new cases, including 43 local infections, raising the total caseload to 11,902, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

It marked a rebound after the country's new COVID-19 cases hovered below 40 for the second straight day.

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

Citizens form a long line to receive new coronavirus tests at a testing site outside Bucheon Stadium, west of Seoul, on June 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

South Korea has been dogged by 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 May 6.

Health authorities warned Tuesday that potential mass infections in the Seoul metropolitan area may come as virus cases at risk-prone facilities can spring up at any time.

"Sporadic infections have continued at facilities vulnerable to infections and through gatherings," Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said in a briefing.

Cases traced to a warehouse run by e-commerce leader Coupang in Bucheon, just west of Seoul, reached 139 as of noon Tuesday. Those linked to Seoul's nightlife area of Itaewon hit 277.

COVID-19 cases tied to a door-to-door business establishment reached at least 68. Those linked to a table tennis gym in southwestern Seoul came in at 51.

Health officials remain on high alert over yet more cluster infections tied to a shelter for Korean-Chinese people in western Seoul. At least nine related cases have been reported so far.

Local government officials check whether QR code-based logs are working at a karaoke establishment in Gwangju's Buk Ward, southwestern South Korea, on June 9, 2020, in this photo provided by the ward office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The string of cluster infections in Seoul and nearby areas came as South Korea completed its phased reopening of schools Monday, the main feature of the country's eased social distancing.

After nearly six weeks of strict social distancing, the country switched to its "everyday life quarantine" scheme on May 6 to enable citizens to carry out economic and social activities under quarantine rules.

Health authorities implemented tougher quarantine measures in the capital area, which will be in place by June 14, warning that the country may have to roll back to strict social distancing if virus cases do not subside.

To better trace contacts of virus patients, the country began to require bars, clubs and other entertainment facilities across the nation to use QR code-based entry logs for all visitors.

The country, meanwhile, added seven imported cases and reported two more deaths, bringing the total death tally to 276. The fatality rate was 2.32 percent.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 10,611, up 22 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 1,051,972 tests since Jan. 3.

This photo, taken on June 10, 2020, shows a vacant office of Mode Tour, a South Korean travel agency, in central Seoul, as its employees have taken paid and unpaid leave over the new coronavirus under a four-day workweek system run by the firm. (Yonhap)


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