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(2nd LD) New infections rebound to over 60, imported cases surge to 3-month high

Welfare/Medicine 11:54 July 08, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout; CHANGES photos)

SEOUL, July 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new virus cases bounced back to above 60 on Wednesday as cluster infections in major cities and imported cases do not show signs of letting up.

The country added 63 cases, including 30 local infections, raising the total caseload to 13,244, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The latest tally marked a sharp rise from the 44 cases reported Tuesday. South Korea had reported more than 60 cases for three consecutive days through Sunday, before falling to 48 on Monday.

Medical workers carry out new coronavirus tests at a drive-thru examination center located in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 8, 2020. (Yonhap)

Imported cases have emerged as yet another stumbling block in the country's virus fight. The country has posted a double-digit number of imported cases for 13 consecutive days. The newly identified cases coming in from overseas mark the highest since April 5, when the reading was 40.

Of the new local infections, seven were reported in the southwestern city of Gwangju, with most traced to a Buddhist temple in the city.

A total of 92 cases linked to the temple in the city, located 330 kilometers south of Seoul, had been reported as of Tuesday.

The capital city of Seoul added five cases, with the surrounding Gyeonggi Province seeing additional 11 cases, the KCDC data showed.

One more case was tied to a Seoul church Tuesday, bringing the total number of related cases to 37.

Cases linked to an apartment building in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, reached 29 on Tuesday, up one from a day earlier.

South Korea eased stringent social distancing in early May on the back of the flattened virus curve.

But a continued rise in cluster infections forced health authorities to indefinitely extend toughened infection preventive measures in the greater Seoul area last month.

The government of South Jeolla Province, which surrounds Gwangju, also raised the region's anti-virus alert level to "social distancing level 2" from the current "distancing in daily life" this week.

Due to a rise in infections traced to religious facilities, South Korea said it will ban churches nationwide from organizing gatherings other than regular worship services, effective from Friday. Also, a QR code-based registration scheme will be implemented for religious facilities.

"We need to be aware that our everyday activities can lead to a fatal result for our families and neighbors," Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said during a regular briefing.

South Korea said it also plans to grant "safe" labels for some 20,000 restaurants nationwide that strictly follow sanitary guidelines.

Medical workers wear chilled vests to fight the summer heat at a makeshift clinic in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 8, 2020. (Yonhap)

Of the imported cases reported on Wednesday, 11 of them were detected at quarantine checkpoints, indicating that a third of such patients were entrants either at airports or ports.

Health authorities are also vigilant over asymptomatic patients among arrivals, who can potentially spread the virus unwittingly.

The accumulated number of imported cases reached 1,747.

The country added no more deaths, keeping the death toll at 285. The fatality rate was 2.15 percent.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 11,970, up 56 from the previous day.

South Korea has carried out 1,359,735 COVID-19 tests since Jan. 3.

colin@yna.co.kr
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