(2nd LD) New virus cases spike again, most traced to cluster infections in greater Seoul
(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout)
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.
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 144 as of noon, up five from the previous day. Those linked to small churches in the metropolitan area reached 92, four more cases from a day earlier.
COVID-19 cases tied to a door-to-door business establishment rose by 25 to 93, and those linked to a table tennis gym in southwestern Seoul came in at 54, up three over the past 24 hours, according to the KCDC.
The health agency called for extra caution for the seniors as infections with people aged 65 and older accounted for nearly 27 percent of the latest cases.
"As virus infections involving the elderly have mounted, the number of patients in critical condition is also on the rise," KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyung told a briefing.
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 education ministry said it has decided to adopt a QR code-based registration of students and visitors to cram schools in a bid to stem further community spread.
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.
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