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(2nd LD) New virus cases below 100 for 3rd day; holiday effect on COVID-19 spread in focus

All News 14:57 October 03, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, Oct. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases stayed below 100 for the third straight day Saturday, but health authorities remain on alert over a potential rebound in virus cases after an extended fall harvest holiday.

The country added 75 more COVID-19 cases, including 52 local infections, raising the total caseload to 24,027, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

It marked an increase from 63 new cases reported Friday but stayed lower than 77 cases Thursday. After daily infections hit 133 on Wednesday, they have declined back to double-digit figures. But the fall in daily cases was in part affected by fewer tests during the holiday.

This photo, taken on Oct. 2, 2020, shows Jeju International Airport bustling with people preparing to depart the southern resort island of Jeju after spending the Chuseok fall harvest holiday there. (Yonhap)

As South Koreans took the three-day Chuseok autumn holiday from Wednesday to Friday and are enjoying an uninterrupted weekend, health authorities remain on alert over the impact of people's mass movement to visit their hometowns or travel on the spread of coronavirus.

During the traditional holiday, many South Koreans usually travel across the country to reunite with family members and relatives.

Health authorities designated Monday to Oct. 10 as a special two-week period for toughened virus curbs on concerns that new virus cases may resurge again.

"New virus cases have been on the decline, but chances for explosive cluster infections at facilities, such as hospitals and welfare institutions, still linger as the virus is quietly spreading," Kwon Joon-wook, deputy director of the Central Disease Control Headquarters, said in a press briefing.

Of those who visited the southeastern port city of Busan during the holiday, two people have tested positive for COVID-19, according to health authorities.

"How well people kept social distancing rules during the holiday will decide the course of the virus outbreak after mid-October and subsequent responses," Kwon said.

The country is wary of the impact of drive-thru rallies and possible abrupt demonstrations by conservative groups later in the day in Seoul on the spread of the coronavirus, after it reported more than 600 virus cases tied to an anti-government rally in central Seoul in mid-August.

A court approved a drive-thru rally involving less than 10 vehicles on National Foundation Day under strict quarantine steps at a time when the Seoul city government has banned rallies of 10 or more people.

The country's new virus cases had been in the triple digits for more than a month since Aug. 14, due mainly to cases tied to a church in northern Seoul and the protest on Aug. 15. Daily infections soared to 441 on Aug. 27.

But new COVID-19 cases have slowed on the back of tightened social distancing rules. The country reported 38 new cases Tuesday, marking the first time that daily infections fell below 50 since Aug. 11.

This photo, taken on Oct. 3, 2020, shows a gate closed at Gwanghwamun Station with a sign that says subways are not stopping to ensure passenger safety and contain the spread of COVID-19. (Yonhap)

Of the newly identified local infections, 25 cases were reported in Seoul and eight cases in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, west of Seoul, reported seven more cases.

Other municipalities reported new infections, with the country's largest port city of Busan adding eight cases and the central city of Daejeon reporting one new case.

Sporadic cluster infections and untraceable cases still put a strain on the country's virus fight. South Korea is implementing the Level 2 social distancing guidance in its three-tier scheme across the nation.

Cases traced to a hospital in northern Seoul reached 46 as of noon, up 13 from the previous day. Infections linked to a church in Incheon added four to 10. Cases tied to a public bath in Busan reached 14, up one case over the past 24 hours.

Untraceable cases accounted for 18.3 percent of the total cases reported over the past two weeks.

The country, meanwhile, added 23 imported cases, increasing the total to 3,270. Five cases came from Uzbekistan, followed by four from the Philippines and three from Ukraine.

South Korea reported four additional deaths, raising the death toll to 420. The fatality rate was 1.75 percent.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 104 as of midnight, down three from the previous day.

The country has so far administered remdesivir, an experimental drug conventionally used for Ebola, to 529 coronavirus patients in critical condition here, according to the KDCA.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 21,787, up 54 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 2,339,859 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3.

Citizens wait in line to receive coronavirus tests at a testing site in central Seoul on Oct. 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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