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(LEAD) New coronavirus cases near 400, alarm all across S. Korea

All News 10:38 August 23, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS photo and more info from 8th para)
By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new virus cases spiked to 397 on Sunday, and infections were reported in all major cities and provinces across the country, health authorities said.

Of the total COVID-19 cases, 387 were local infections, 297 of them in Seoul and the surrounding areas, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The country's total caseload has risen to 17,399.

Officials of the Bupyeong Ward of Incheon, west of Seoul, administer coronavirus tests on Aug. 22, 2020. (Yonhap)

Sunday's new cases are the most since March 7, when the country reported 483 new cases, the KCDC said.

The number of daily infections has been in the triple digits since Aug. 14, when 103 additional cases were reported. Over the past 10 days, a total of 2,629 cases has been identified.

A resurgence in new coronavirus cases, mostly traced to churches, has been reported in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi Province, home to half of the country's 51 million people.

Of the newly identified local infections, 138 cases were reported in the capital city of Seoul, 124 from Gyeonggi Province surrounding the capital city and 32 from the western port city of Incheon, the KCDC said.

Health authorities warned that the wider capital region should brace for another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the country stands on the cusp of a nationwide outbreak.

A notice on the door of McDonald's Seoul Station branch in Seoul shows that the shop is closed after a worker there tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Aug. 22, 2020. (Yonhap)

In a sign that the virus is spreading across the nation, more virus cases have been newly added outside the greater Seoul, with 100 new cases. It marks the first time in recent weeks that the number reached triple digits.

The southern city of Gwangju and the central city of Daejeon each reported 15 new cases, the KCDC said.

Amid grim prospects of a nationwide epidemic, the government decided on Saturday to impose a stricter social distancing scheme outside the greater Seoul area, starting earlier in the day.

Health authorities said a surge in cases traced to a church in northern Seoul and infections tied to a massive weekend rally in central Seoul appear to have served as a catalyst in spurring virus spread nationwide.

Health authorities also urged participants in the anti-government rally held last weekend to immediately take virus tests regardless of whether they are showing symptoms. A large number of Sarang Jeil Church members took part in the rally.

As of Saturday at noon, a total of 796 COVID-19 patients has been traced to the church, the KCDC said.

The KCDC remained on high alert over a potential explosive outbreak tied to the rally as it is hard to trace the whereabouts of thousands of protesters who came to Seoul from other cities. A total of 104 cases have so far been tied to the march.

The government earlier said it is not yet time to consider raising the level of social distancing to Level 3.

The highest anti-virus curbs can be issued when the number of daily virus cases reaches a two-week average of 100-200 and the doubling of new COVID-19 cases occurs more than twice a week.

If the level is raised, its impact on the economy and people's daily lives could be severe. Gatherings of 10 or more people would be banned, and offline school classes would be suspended.

South Korea reported 10 new imported cases on Sunday. Cases coming in from overseas rebounded back to double-digit numbers from mid-June for about a month, but such infections recently slowed.

South Korea reported no new deaths, with the tally remaining at 309, the KCDC said. The fatality rate was 1.78 percent.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 14,200, up 31 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 1,791,186 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3.

khj@yna.co.kr
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