(2nd LD) New virus cases rebound; community spread, imported cases on steady rise
(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout; CHANGES photos)
SEOUL, June 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases bounced back again Friday amid a steady rise in cluster infections and imported cases, putting continued strain on the country's efforts to contain further virus spread.
The country added 39 cases, including 27 local infections, raising the total caseload to 12,602, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The tally rebounded from 28 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday. New daily virus cases have remained in the 30-50 range since they hit 67, the most in a month, on June 20.
The country's health authorities remain anxious about sustained rises in local infections and imported cases, which may lead to another wave of virus outbreak in the summer. The total global virus caseload is set to top 10 million next week.
Of the locally transmitted cases, 19 cases were reported in densely populated Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas. Four cases were reported in Daejeon, about 160 kilometers south of Seoul.
"The number of new locally transmitted cases has somewhat slowed, but sporadic cluster infections are spreading in the central Chungcheong provinces beyond the bigger Seoul area," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health official, said in a briefing.
At least 12 cases were traced to a church in southern Seoul, according to the KCDC. Health authorities are conducting virus tests on about 1,700 people who came in contact with the patients.
The infections appeared to be linked to close contacts via choir activities or a workshop program, the KCDC noted.
"We call for extra caution over the weekend as the virus is spreading through religious activities," KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said in a briefing.
Cases tied to a door-to-door sales establishment in Daejeon came to 72 as of noon, up one case from the previous day.
Infections connected to sports facilities in southwestern Seoul rose by two to 72.
South Korea has been gripped by sporadic cluster infections since it relaxed stricter social distancing on May 6. The greater Seoul area accounted for most of the newly added cases this month.
Health authorities said the Seoul metropolitan area is already in a second wave of the new coronavirus outbreak, warning that the country should brace for a protracted virus fight. The first wave of the virus outbreak gripped the country between February and March.
Health officials warned that they may consider expanding tougher infection preventive measures -- currently in place only in the Seoul metropolitan area -- across the country if virus situations get worse.
Starting next month, health authorities will adopt a reservation system to limit the number of visitors to nursing homes and facilities as senior citizens are susceptible to virus infections.
The country is also struggling to stem cases coming in from overseas. Twelve additional imported cases were reported, with the number of such cases rising to 1,508.
Recently, cluster infections on a Russia-flagged cargo ship docked at a port in the southeastern city of Busan, the country's second-largest city, have been reported, and cases traced to overseas have been on a steady rise.
At least 17 sailors aboard two Russian ships tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials said all 163 people who came in contact with the infected crewmembers have tested negative.
The government said it has inspected about 490 dormitories for foreign migrants workers as such facilities appear to be a "blind spot" in quarantine efforts.
Of them, nearly 170 facilities were found to have failed to thoroughly implement quarantine measures, according to the KCDC. Health authorities said 271 foreign workers have tested positive so far.
Imported cases, once the main source of virus cases here, fell to a single-digit figure early this month after the country strengthened quarantine measures on all international arrivals in April.
But such cases have bounced back to double-digit numbers since mid-June.
South Korea, meanwhile, reported no additional death, bringing the total death toll to 282. The fatality rate was 2.24 percent.
The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 11,172, up 198 from the previous day.
The country has carried out 1,232,315 tests since Jan. 3.
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