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(2nd LD) New virus cases at more than 1-month low, nationwide virus curbs tipped to be extended

National 14:46 September 20, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout; CHANGES photos)

SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases dipped below 100 for the first time in more than a month on Sunday on the back of the country's strict social distancing scheme, but untraceable infections still pose a challenge to the country's virus fight.

The country added 82 more COVID-19 cases, including 72 local infections, taking the total caseload to 22,975, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

It marked the first time for the daily tally to fall below 100 since Aug. 13.

The two-digit figure, however, apparently came as fewer tests are normally carried out over the weekend. On Saturday, 7,539 tests were carried out, but more than 10,000 tests are normally conducted on weekdays.

The country's new daily infections have been in the triple digits for more than a month on a surge in cases tied to a church in northern Seoul and an anti-government rally in mid-August.

A medical staff member gets ready to carry out new coronavirus tests at a makeshift clinic located in central Seoul on Sept. 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

The greater Seoul area that houses around half of the nation's population earlier adopted the so-called enhanced social distancing policy, which made it mandatory for restaurants to offer only takeout after 9 p.m. This was lifted last week, but the Level 2 scheme is still in force nationwide.

South Korea will decide later in the day whether to extend the Level 2 scheme for areas outside the greater Seoul area.

Cases with unknown transmission routes accounted for 27.4 percent of all cases reported in the past two weeks. Cluster infections also accounted for 26 percent of the newly added cases over the period.

The upcoming Chuseok fall harvest holiday that falls later this month, a tradition that entails mass movements of people and family gatherings, is also among the major concerns for local health authorities.

Of the additional locally transmitted cases, 28 came from Seoul, and 24 were reported from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province. Incheon, located west of Seoul, added three more patients.

The southern port city of Busan reported six new cases.

Infections tied to last month's anti-government rallies came to 616 as of Sunday, up three from the previous day.

Cases tied to production lines of Kia Motors Corp. in Gyeonggi Province reached 18, up two from a day earlier.

A gym located in southern Seoul reported seven additional patients, raising the related caseload to eight.

A psychiatric hospital located in north of Seoul added five more related patients, raising the total to 24.

A park located in the Mapo Ward of Seoul is closed on Sept. 20, 2020, to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

The number of imported cases came to 10.

Three patients were from India, and two more infection cases came from Turkey. There were also cases traced to Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Germany and the United States.

The death toll rose by five to 383. The fatality rate reached 1.67 percent.

Health authorities are concerned that the number of deaths may rise further down the road as most of the patients in critical condition are seniors.

Of the reported deaths, more than 80 percent of the victims were aged 70 and above. Two were in their 30s.

The number of patients in serious or critical condition came to 146, down six from the previous day.

A total of 20,158 people has been released from quarantine after making full recoveries, up 188 from the previous day. More than 87 percent of the patients reported here have been cured.

South Korea has carried out 2,226,701 COVID-19 tests since Jan. 3. The country reported its first case on Jan. 20.

colin@yna.co.kr
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