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Spiking imported cases put S. Korea's containment efforts in peril

All News 11:47 July 25, 2020

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's imported virus cases hit a record daily high on Saturday due to an influx of infections coming in from Iraq and Russia, putting more strains on the country's anti-virus fight.

The country added a whopping 86 imported cases, raising the total number of such infections to 2,244, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Saturday's daily new imported cases mark the highest-ever since the country reported its first confirmed virus case on Jan. 20.

On Saturday, the country's daily new cases also breached 100 for the first time since April 1.

Imported cases have been rising by double digits for 30 consecutive days.

The record-high number of imported infections came as 36 South Korean workers flown in from Iraq on Friday were confirmed to have contracted the virus.

South Korean construction workers alight from a military plane at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on July 24, 2020, as they return home from coronavirus-hit Iraq. Two KC-330 air refueling tankers arrived back home carrying some 290 people from Iraq amid a worsening outbreak of the new coronavirus in the Middle East country. (Yonhap)

On Friday, two chartered planes brought back nearly 300 citizens from virus-hit Iraq. Health authorities said nearly 90 passengers had symptoms of the new coronavirus.

The number of COVID-19 cases among the returned workers is likely to rise down the road as the country carries out more tests on them, they added.

Russian ships docked at the southern port city of Busan have been also a source of concern for health authorities.

On Saturday, a total of 34 new cases were traced to a 7,733-ton Russian ship that docked in the southeastern port city of Busan on July 8.

Since June, South Korea has identified around 80 virus cases from eight Russian ships docked here.

The country, which has been considered one of the most successful nations in the fight against the pandemic, has been strengthening quarantines against arrivals from overseas as the number of new cases has shown no signs of a slowdown globally.

South Korea has been requiring foreigners arriving from six high-risk countries to submit a certificate showing they tested negative for the new coronavirus.

Some 290 South Korean construction workers leave an arrival gate of Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on July 24, 2020, as they return home from coronavirus-hit Iraq on two chartered airplanes. (Yonhap)

The country placed six countries -- Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and Uzbekistan -- on a list of such high-risk countries. It is also considering adding Russia to the list.

Currently, all arrivals, including South Korean nationals, are forced to put themselves under a two-week quarantine.

Of the imported cases, around half of them were screened at checkpoints.

Asian countries, excluding China, accounted for 42 percent, and the Americas took up 32.4 percent. Those from China accounted for less than 1 percent, although South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case from a Chinese person on Jan. 20.

Around a third of the patients from the accumulated imported cases were foreign nationals.

colin@yna.co.kr
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