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(2nd LD) S. Korea's virus infections slightly decline, but spread continues beyond capital

National 15:07 July 09, 2020

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SEOUL, July 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new daily virus cases declined slightly on Thursday, but the new coronavirus continued to spread beyond Seoul and its neighboring areas.

The country added 50 cases, including 28 local infections, raising the total caseload to 13,293, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

South Korea had reported more than 60 new virus cases for three consecutive days through Sunday, before falling below 50 on Monday and Tuesday. The new daily cases rebounded to 63 a day earlier on a sharp rise in infections coming in from overseas.

The country newly identified 22 more imported cases, posting double-digit numbers for 14 consecutive days. On Wednesday, the figure reached a three-month high at 33 cases.

A medical staff works at a makeshift clinic located in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

Sporadic cluster infections across the nation also continued to rise.

Of the new local infections, 15 cases were reported in the southwestern city of Gwangju, which has emerged as a new hotbed of the virus outbreak.

A total of 105 cases linked to a door-to-door business in the city were reported as of Thursday, up 10 from a day earlier. Twelve new virus cases traced to a cram school in the city have been reported as well.

The capital city of Seoul added four cases, with the surrounding Gyeonggi Province seeing just one additional case, the KCDC data showed.

Cases traced to a major Protestant church in Seoul's southwestern ward of Gwanak reached 39 on Thursday, up one from the previous day.

Incheon, just west of Seoul, added two more cases, and the central city of Daejeon added six more infections.

With religious gatherings-tied cases on a steady rise, South Korea plans to ban churches nationwide from organizing gatherings other than regular worship services, effective from Friday.

A QR code-based registration scheme will be implemented for churches as well.

A staff pass by an electronic signboard updating latest new coronavirus cases at a governmental office of Gwangju, 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul, on July 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

South Korea relaxed strict social distancing on May 6 on the flattened virus curve, when the country reported single-digit daily figures, but was soon spooked by cluster infections in the greater Seoul area.

The country later decided to re-adopt enhanced social-distancing indefinitely in the metropolitan region, where around half of the nation's population lives. With cases soaring elsewhere as well, South Jolla Province also raised its anti-virus alert level.

Health authorities said they have carried out random tests on 3,055 South Koreans, and that only one person had an immunity against COVID-19. This indicates that 0.03 percent of the people were immune to the virus.

"This indicates that we are not able to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic by developing herd immunity," KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Joon-wook said.

"Unless a vaccine becomes available, we need to follow the basic guidelines, such as keeping safe distances, wearing masks and being more mindful of sanitation," Kwon added.

The country reported two more deaths, raising the death toll to 287. The fatality rate was 2.16 percent.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 12,019, up 49 from the previous day.

The figure translates into 90.4 percent of patients here being cured of the disease.

The accumulated number of imported cases reached 1,768. Of the 22 cases reported on Thursday, five were detected at quarantine checkpoints.

South Korea has carried out 1,371,771 COVID-19 tests since Jan. 3.

Citizens wait in line to receive new coronavirus tests in the southwestern county of Yeongam on July 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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