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(2nd LD) New daily virus cases at 36 as church-linked community spread continues

All News 18:07 August 09, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, ADDS updated info in para 10-11, 15-17)

SEOUL, Aug. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases hovered above 30 for the second straight day on Sunday, as local infections traced to religious gatherings in the capital and a nearby city continued to rise.

The country identified 36 virus cases, including 30 local infections, raising the total caseload to 14,598, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The tally marked a fall from 43 additional cases reported Saturday.

The Seoul metropolitan area has accounted for most of the newly added virus cases this month.

Of the locally transmitted cases, 25 were reported in densely populated Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, where around half of the country's 50-million population resides.

In particular, many cases were tied to church gatherings in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul.

Concertgoers at Olympic Park in eastern Seoul read precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections on Aug. 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

Two churches in Goyang have emerged as an epicenter of cluster infections that have spread to a day care center in the city.

Confirmed cases at one church in Goyang rose by eight to a total of 24, while the other church in the same city saw its confirmed cases rise by two to 20.

At a church in western Seoul, one additional case was also reported, with related cases standing at five.

In a regular press briefing later Sunday, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said the government is considering strengthening measures to prevent church-linked cluster infections or reinstating the ban on unnecessary church gatherings.

"We have implemented the measures (to prevent church clusters) and we're discussing whether to bring that in again or come up with a new and stronger regulation," he said.

South Korea had banned church members from having gatherings other than regular worship services amid the soaring number of related patients, but it decided to lift the regulation on July 24.

Cases coming in from overseas fell to a single digit after increasing by double-digit numbers for 43 consecutive days. Among the six additional cases, one was detected at a quarantine checkpoint at an airport.

A health official conducts coronavirus tests at a drive-through test center in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, on Aug. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

The country suffered a sharp increase in the number of such imported cases due to South Korean workers returning home from Iraq, along with sailors from Russian ships docked at its port.

By average, the local infection trend has improved in the past two weeks compared with 14 days earlier, with the number of daily new cases coming down to 12.1 from 19.9, according to government data.

Imported cases stood at 21.4, down from 31.4 in the same period, a decline largely attributable to the change in the quarantine policy requiring foreigners from six high-risk countries to submit negative virus test results before being admitted, officials said.

But untraceable infection cases accounted for 8.5 percent of the total, up from 6.4 percent tallied in that period, putting authorities on alert for blindspots.

The country reported one more virus death, keeping the number of fatalities at 305, according to the KCDC. The fatality rate reached 2.09 percent.

The number of patients fully cured of the virus reached 13,642, up 13 from the previous day. This indicates 93.45 percent of patients reported here have recovered.



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