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(2nd LD) Greater Seoul dogged by cluster infections, daily imported cases in double digits for month

All News 11:31 July 24, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout; CHANGES photos)

SEOUL, July 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new daily virus cases fell back to below 50 on Friday, but the country may report more infection cases coming in from overseas down the road as around 300 nationals arrived here from virus-hit Iraq.

The country identified 41 new cases, raising the total caseload to 13,979, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). Of the newly added cases, 28 were local infections, most of which were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area.

New virus cases reached 59 on Thursday due to the rising number of cases traced to a nursing home in Seoul, a front-line military base, and churches. The country also reported 63 cases on Wednesday, after falling below 30 for the first time in around three weeks on Monday.

A Korean Air Force plane lands at Incheon International Airport on July 24, 2020. Two planes were sent to Iraq to bring home nearly 300 South Korean citizens. (Yonhap)

Of the locally transmitted cases reported Friday, 19 were from Seoul.

A nursing home in western Seoul reported five new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising the total number of related cases to 20.

A church located in southern Seoul reported 16 new infections, as its members did not follow social distancing guidelines that banned gatherings other than regular worship services. South Korea plans to lift the ban, imposed earlier this month, later in the day.

"Health authorities are closely monitoring local churches despite the lift, as the number of new infections from such facilities is rising," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health official, said during a daily briefing.

"We urge churchgoers to wear protective masks and follow basic guidelines, including keeping safe distances," Yoon added.

Gyeonggi Province, surrounding the capital city, reported five new infections.

Health authorities said at least 17 cases were traced to an Army unit in Pocheon, some 45 kilometers north of Seoul, as of Thursday.

South Korea said it has been carrying out COVID-19 tests on all new military recruits, and the group infections were traced to an outside instructor who visited the base.

Gwangju, located 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul, added two new cases. The southeastern port city of Busan added two virus cases as well.

Medical officials carry out new coronavirus tests on visitors at a makeshift clinic in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 24, 2020. (Yonhap)

Imported cases are also showing no signs of a letup, increasing by daily double-digit figures for nearly a month.

Of the 13 new imported cases, the United States and Uzbekistan accounted for three each.

The recent increase also came as South Korean workers returned home from virus-hit nations, such as Iraq. There were infections on Russian ships docked in Busan, while some U.S. military officials stationed here also tested positive.

On Friday morning, at least 32 sailors on a Russia-flagged fishing vessel docked in the southeastern city of Busan tested positive for the new coronavirus in another cluster infection on a foreign vessel. They were not included in the daily tally.

Two South Korean military planes arrived back home Friday, carrying 293 people from Iraq amid the worsening outbreak of the new coronavirus in the Middle Eastern country. They will be put under a two-week quarantine.

Health authorities said around 80 of them said they had symptoms of the new coronavirus before their departure.

Among the first batch of 105 South Korean workers who arrived here from Iraq on July 15, 45 tested positive for the virus.

South Korea said it will gradually allow spectators to attend sports events, starting with baseball games on Saturday, as the daily locally-transmitted cases stayed below 50.

This week, the country also resumed the operation of museums and libraries in the greater Seoul area.

The country's death toll came to 298, up one from the previous day, according to the KCDC. The fatality rate reached 2.13 percent.

The number of patients fully cured of the virus reached 12,817, up 59 from Thursday.

South Korea has been carrying out 1,510,327 tests since Jan. 3.


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