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(2nd LD) New virus cases below 300 as social distancing toughened in greater Seoul

All News 12:04 August 30, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with details and background in paras 6-11)

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- The number of daily new coronavirus cases in South Korea fell below 300 on Sunday for the first time in five days as health authorities extended tougher social distancing measures in the greater Seoul area for one more week.

South Korea reported 299 new COVID-19 cases, including 283 local infections, raising the total caseload to 19,699, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). Two more patients died, raising the death toll to 323.

Sunday's daily tally marks a drop from the previous day when the country's new virus cases came to 323. Still, the number of daily virus cases has stayed in the triple digits for more than two weeks and may rise again as new clusters have been emerging in recent days throughout the country.

Of the 283 locally transmitted cases, 203 were identified in the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's 51 million population.

Seoul added 114 more cases, while the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and western port city of Incheon reported 77 and 12 cases, respectively, it said.

The southeastern city of Daegu reported an additional 30 cases, with 29 of them linked to a Protestant church in the city, according to the local government.

The city government in Daegu ordered the shutdown of Sarang Church as it filed a complaint against the church's pastor for pressing ahead with offline services.

Some church members tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the Aug. 15 Liberation Day rally in Seoul, according to the city government.

In Seoul, cluster infections are mostly tied to a separate conservative church in the northern part of the city and the Aug. 15 Liberation Day rally in Seoul.

As of noon on Saturday, Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul -- a hotbed of the recent spike in new infections -- had reported 1,018 COVID-19 cases, up 40 from a day earlier. A total of 307 cases have been tied to the rally.

Also among the growing clusters were a company in the southern ward of Gwanak, an apartment complex and a meat factory in the southwestern ward of Guro, and a Protestant church in the northern ward of Nowon.

Congregants of a Protestant church in Seoul's Nowon Ward wait to take a coronavirus test at a makeshift screening center in the district on Aug. 28, 2020. (Yonhap)

Congregants of a Protestant church in Seoul's Nowon Ward wait to take a coronavirus test at a makeshift screening center in the district on Aug. 28, 2020. (Yonhap)

On Sunday, South Korea began to restrict operations of restaurants, bakeries and franchise coffee chains in the greater Seoul area in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Under the plan that lasts until next Sunday, restaurants and bakeries can operate until 9 p.m., and only takeaway and delivery will be permitted from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

For franchise coffee chains, only takeout or delivery will be permitted regardless of operating hours, as cluster infections traced to coffee shops have been reported.

South Korea also began to suspend the operation of indoor sports facilities, including fitness centers and billiard halls, in the wake of virus infections at indoor sports centers.

The government also expanded no-assembly orders from large academies to almost all cram schools in the wider Seoul area. Only online lectures will be permitted.

On Sunday, South Korea reported 16 imported cases, raising the accumulated number of imported cases to 2,813.

Of the 16 imported cases, 10 were South Koreans and six were foreigners. They came from the United States, Mexico, the Philippines, Iraq, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The KCDC said the total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 14,903, up 138 from the previous day.


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