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(2nd LD) New daily virus cases fall below 30 as church-linked infections again loom larger

All News 11:40 August 10, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus infections fell below 30 on Monday as imported cases slowed, but church-traced infections continued to strain the country's anti-virus fight.

The country identified an additional 28 virus cases, including 17 local infections, raising the total caseload to 14,626, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

It marked a slight drop from the 36 new virus cases, including 30 local infections, the previous day.

Imported cases, which fell to a single digit after increasing by double-digit numbers for 43 consecutive days, rebounded to 11.

Of the locally transmitted cases, 11 were reported in the densely populated capital city of Seoul. Nine new virus cases were tied to the Namdaemun Market in central Seoul. The surrounding Gyeonggi Province also identified five new cases.

Medical staff members carry out new coronavirus tests at a drive-thru clinic in Goyang, north of Seoul, on Aug. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

Domestic cases fell to as low as just three on Aug. 3, but sporadic cluster infections, most tied to churches, have led to yet another uptick in the total number of cases.

A church in Goyang, north of Seoul, reported eight additional patients on Sunday, raising the total caseload to 24. Another church from the city added two more infections to report a combined 20 cases.

A church in Seoul's western district of Yeongdeungpo reported five patients. Health authorities said the related church members dined together without proper infection preventive measures.

Since reporting its first patient on Jan. 20, South Korea has never adopted a full lockdown but opted to prevent the spread of the virus through enhanced social distancing guidelines.

The measures included adopting a quick response (QR) code-based entry authentication system to quickly track the visitors at crowded establishments, such as bars, clubs, and churches.

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.

On Sunday, health authorities hinted they are considering readopting the scheme should the number of infections from churches not plateau.

This photo, provided by the Gangseo Ward of Seoul on Aug. 10, 2020, shows a civil servant helping COVID-19 patients remove their personal data, such as location history, online. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"We are concerned that there has been an increase in the number of infections at local churches, with the virus also spreading to day care centers, door-to-door sales businesses and large-sized marketplaces," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health official, said in a briefing.

But over the past two weeks, the average number of new domestic infections fell to 12.1 cases, down from 19.9 cases two weeks earlier, according to health authorities.

South Korea said it will gradually increase the number of spectators at sports events, allowing baseball stadiums to be at 30 percent capacity starting Tuesday, up from the previous 10 percent.

Of the 11 imported cases reported on Monday, six were screened at quarantine checkpoints.

The Philippines and Bangladesh accounted for two cases each. The United States took up three of the newly added imported cases.

Among the accumulated 2,561 imported cases, South Korean nationals were responsible for 65.8 percent.

The country recently 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.

Amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases from China's Xinjiang region and Vietnam's Danang, health authorities decided to reimpose two-week isolation for businesspeople returning home from such areas.

The country has not required the mandatory quarantine for South Korean businessmen returning home from China, Vietnam, and Cambodia since July 29.

The country reported no new virus deaths, 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 13,658, up 16 from the previous day, with more than 93 percent of the patients here having recovered.

South Korea has carried out 1,628,303 COVID-19 tests since Jan. 3.


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