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(2nd LD) New virus cases rebound to above 60; imported cases at 4-month high

All Headlines 11:48 July 13, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout; CHANGES photos)

SEOUL, July 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new virus cases bounced back to above 60 on Monday as imported cases increased by the largest number in nearly four months amid rises in cluster infections in major cities.

The country added 62 cases, including 19 local infections, raising the total caseload to 13,479, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The tally marked a sharp rise from 44 new virus cases reported Sunday and 35 cases Saturday. It marked the highest since the number of daily virus cases hit 63 on Wednesday.

Imported cases emerged as yet another stumbling block in the country's virus fight. The country identified 43 more imported cases on Monday, raising the total of such cases to 1,872. The reading marked the highest since 51 on March 25 and was the 18th consecutive day of double-digit increase.

Health officials instruct international arrivals on their transportation options during the coronavirus pandemic at Incheon International Airport, South Korea's main gateway west of Seoul, on July 12, 2020, as the country began on July 13 to require arrivals from high-risk nations to hand in a certificate showing they tested negative for COVID-19. (Yonhap)

Starting Monday, arrivals from four high-risk nations -- Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan -- must submit a certificate showing they tested negative for the virus.

Imported cases, once the main source of virus cases here, fell to a single-digit figure in early last month on the back of the country's strengthened quarantine checks at airports.

But such cases have bounced back to double-digit numbers since mid-June as global virus cases have resurged amid eased lockdowns.

Health authorities said since June, multiple virus cases have been traced to ships arriving in South Korea to change sailors' shifts.

"All international arrivals should be in a two-week quarantine and take virus tests within three days of entry. So there is little possibility that the virus coming in from overseas would spread out to local communities," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health official, told in a briefing.

Sporadic cluster infections across the country also continued to weigh on the country's efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, with most tied to religious facilities and door-to-door retailers.

The densely populated Seoul and adjacent areas accounted for most of the local infections last month, but the virus outbreaks have been constantly reported in other parts of the country.

Of locally transmitted cases, 13 cases were reported in the greater Seoul area. Cluster infections tied to an apartment building in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul reached 31 as of noon Sunday.

Six cases were identified in the southwestern city of Gwangju. The city has recently emerged as a new hotbed of the virus outbreak outside of the Seoul metropolitan area.

Cases linked to a door-to-door business in Gwangju reached 135 as of noon Sunday.

Churchgoers line up to attend a service at Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul on July 12, 2020, as health authorities have beefed up anti-virus prevention measures at churches nationwide. (Yonhap)

South Korea has been gripped by rises in sporadic cluster infections in the greater Seoul area since it relaxed strict social distancing on May 6 on the flattened virus curve.

The country's health authorities remain jittery over another wave of virus outbreaks in the summer amid sustained rises in local infections and cases coming in from overseas.

A preliminary antibody test showed only one out of 3,055 people tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in South Korea.

South Korea's health minister Park Neunghoo said Sunday herd immunity is "impossible" here and renewed calls for citizens to strictly follow hygiene measures until COVID-19 vaccines become available.

South Korea, meanwhile, reported no additional death, bringing the death toll to 289. The fatality rate was 2.14 percent.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 12,204, up 26 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 1,408,312 tests since Jan. 3.

This photo, taken July 12, 2020, shows a sign at a pharmacy in Seoul over an end to a state-led mask rationing system after a four-month operation. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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