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(LEAD) New virus cases stay below 100, but rise spurs concern ahead of Chuseok holiday

National 11:16 September 27, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details, CHANGES headline)
By Choi Kyong-ae

SEOUL, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) --South Korea reported 95 more cases of the new coronavirus Sunday, up 34 from the previous day, amid concern about the virus further spreading during the upcoming Chuseok holiday, even though new infections stayed below 100 for the second straight day.

The new COVID-19 cases break down to 73 local infections and 22 imported cases, and brought the country's total caseload to 23,611, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The number of daily cornavirus cases bounced back to over 100 Wednesday and stayed above the mark Thursday and Friday. The number fell to 61 on Saturday as health authorities focus on reducing further sporadic cluster infections and untraceable cases in the greater Seoul area.

New virus cases had been in the triple digits for more than a month since Aug. 14 due to cases tied to a church in Seoul and an anti-government rally before briefly falling below 100.

Health workers disinfect a market near Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, which is at the center of a recent resurgence of the coronavirus, on Sept. 24, 2020, ahead of the Chuseok holiday, which falls on Oct. 1. (Yonhap)

The number of imported cases stood at 22 as of midnight, bringing the total cases from overseas to 3,183. Of the newly confirmed overseas cases, 18 came from Asian countries except for China, followed by three from Europe and one from Africa, the KDCA said.

Cluster infections continued to be reported at workplaces, nursing homes, churches and day care centers, especially in the greater Seoul area.

Untraceable cases accounted for about 25 percent of the daily new cases, according to the KDCA.

Seoul added 34 new virus cases, and nearby Gyeonggi Province and Incheon saw 21 and nine new patients, respectively.

Two additional deaths were reported, raising the toll to 401. The fatality rate came to 1.7 percent.

Imported cases nearly doubled to 22 from Saturday's 12. Of the total, six cases were from Uzbekistan, followed by five each from the Philippines and India, and one each from Nepal, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Britain and the United States, the KDCA said

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients stood at 124 as of midnight, up two from the previous day, according to the authorities.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 21,248, up 82 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 2,296,517 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3, the KDCA said.

This photo taken Sept. 25, 2020, shows only a few people in Seoul's university district of Shinchon amid the pandemic. (Yonhap)

The biggest, imminent challenge is to prevent a potential rebound in new virus cases around the upcoming Chuseok holiday, which traditionally entails mass movements of people and family gatherings across the country.

This year's fall harvest holiday runs from Wednesday through next Sunday.

With a goal to minimize the potential impacts of the holiday, the government decided to designate a special two-week period for strong antivirus efforts starting Monday, while maintaining the Level 2 social distancing guidance.

At the current level, indoor gatherings of 50 or more people are banned, and outdoor meetings of 100 or more people are also prohibited. Sports events are allowed without spectators.

Under the two-week campaign, the operation of 11 types of "high-risk" facilities, including clubs, bars and buffets, will be suspended in the greater Seoul area for two weeks. As for non-metropolitan areas, five kinds of risk-prone facilities, such as nightlife establishments will be ordered to shut down for a week.

The authorities also called for the strengthening of quarantine measures further at public facilities, such as restaurants, cafes and theaters, in Seoul and the surrounding areas during the period.

This illustration published on Sept. 25, 2020, calls on people to refrain from visiting their hometowns for this year's Chuseok fall harvest holiday. (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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