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(LEAD) Local transmissions balloon by double digits in Seoul

All News 16:24 June 12, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 7, 10-11, 13-15, graphic)

SEOUL, June 12 (Yonhap) -- The number of newly confirmed cases from local transmissions in Seoul marked a double-digit growth for 11 straight days, raising concerns over a possibly bigger outbreak in the city where one-fourth of the population lives.

The number of daily local transmissions reported here from June 1-10 increased by two-digit numbers ranging from 13 to 29, according to an analysis of data by Yonhap News Agency.

On Thursday, the figure reached 23 as of 6 p.m., raising the total to 203.

This marks the longest double-digit growth streak since the new coronavirus pandemic broke out in South Korea.

The city saw four consecutive days of double-digit increases in March when a cluster infection broke out at a call center in the southwestern Seoul ward of Guro and another four-day streak linked to nightspots in Itaewon in May.

Health workers at a screening center in the eastern Seoul ward of Jungnang use ice packs to cool down on June 8, 2020. (Yonhap)

The latest data comes amid heightened worries over chain transmissions traced to massive infection clusters in the greater Seoul area that includes Incheon, west of Seoul, and Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital.

In the metropolitan area, one COVID-19 patient is estimated to spread the virus to roughly 1.8 people on average, while the corresponding figure for other regions is around 0.6, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to the nightspot and call center infections, the area has seen several cluster infections popping up -- including those linked to online retailer Coupang's warehouse, small churches and religious meetings, a door-to-door retailer that sells health products and a table tennis club.

Smaller sporadic infections have also been reported at a number of other facilities, such as call centers and private sector education institutes.

Most recently, a day care center for senior citizens in the northeastern Seoul ward of Dobong emerged as a new infection cluster. Fourteen cases have been identified as of Friday.

The Seoul city government has advised relevant facilities to close and families to take care of their elderly family members at home.

In an effort to clamp down on bigger chain transmissions, the government in late May tightened distancing measures in the greater Seoul area until June 14.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in S. Korea (Yonhap)

On Friday, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said the government has decided to extend the toughened measures until further notice.

Park said health authorities will come up with stricter social distancing guidelines if the virus situation does not improve.

As of Friday, South Korea's total confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 12,003. It reported its first case on Jan. 20.


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