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(LEAD) Virus spread outside capital accelerates; local infections at 2-week high

All News 11:03 July 02, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; ADDS details throughout, photos)

SEOUL, July 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported more than 50 new virus cases for the second day in a row on Thursday as cluster infections piled up outside the Seoul metropolitan area.

The country added 54 cases, including 44 local infections, raising the total caseload to 12,904, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The tally marked a slight rise from 51 reported a day earlier. South Korea added 43 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 42 cases on Monday.

The daily number of local infections was the highest in two weeks, since 51 new cases were reported on June 18.

A student receives a new coronavirus test at an elementary school in Daejeon, 164 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

Of the locally transmitted infections, 22 cases were newly identified in Gwangju, 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul. The city also reported a double-digit number of virus cases for the first time a day earlier.

Those linked to a Buddhist temple in Gwangju rose by five to 19 as of the previous day.

The greater Seoul area reported 18 new cases. Daejeon, a central city, reported just one more infection.

Over the past two months, densely populated Seoul and the surrounding area, which house around half of the country's 51-million population, took up most of the newly added cases here.

South Korea, which relaxed strict social distancing in early May on the back of a flattened virus curve, decided last month to indefinitely apply toughened infection preventive measures in the greater Seoul area due to a continued rise in cluster infections tied to religious gatherings, warehouses and door-to-door businesses.

But the latest uptick in the number of cases from other areas outside the metropolitan area, including Gwangju, may prod health authorities to consider readopting the scheme elsewhere.

Earlier this week, two elementary students in Daejeon also tested positive after coming in contact with a peer, in what could be the first spread of the virus at a school in the country.

As part of eased social distancing, school reopenings began in mid-May.

Students and teachers stand in lines while keeping a safe distance before receiving new coronavirus tests at an elementary school in Daejeon, 164 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

To prevent possible spread of the virus among students, Gwangju decided to shut down all of its schools through Friday. Students will take online classes instead.

Cases traced to a major church in Seoul's southwestern ward of Gwanak reached 32 as of Wednesday. Cases tied to church gatherings in Suwon, south of Seoul, came to nine. At least six residents at an apartment building north of Seoul, have tested positive as well.

The country reported no additional deaths, with the death toll staying at 282. The fatality rate was 2.19 percent.

The rate, however, reached a whopping 24.9 percent for patients in their 80s. No deaths have been reported among South Koreans aged 29 and below.

The number of new imported cases reached 10, marking a double-digit rise for the seventh consecutive day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 11,684, up 71 from the previous day. This indicates more than 90 percent of the COVID-19 patients here have been cured.

The country has carried out 1,295,962 tests since Jan. 3.

colin@yna.co.kr
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