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Local virus cases at 1-month high; cluster infections biggest hurdle in virus fight

All News 09:37 October 22, 2020

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- The number of daily local coronavirus cases in South Korea spiked again to over 100 for the first time in nearly one month Thursday, as sporadic cluster infections at nursing homes and other facilities continued to climb amid eased virus restrictions.

The country added 121 more COVID-19 cases, including 104 domestic infections, raising the total caseload to 25,543, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The country's new COVID-19 cases bounced back to triple digits for the first time in a week due largely to an uptick in cluster infections at nursing homes and other risk-prone facilities and a rise in imported cases.

It also marked the first time that local infections surpassed the 100 mark since Sept. 24, when the number of domestic virus cases reached 109.

A health worker conducts a new coronavirus test on a tutor at a cram school in Seoul's southern district of Gangnam on Oct. 21, 2020. (Yonhap)

Last week, the country relaxed its social distancing scheme to the lowest level in its three-tier system, after applying Level 2 measures across the nation for about two months since late August.

The country's new virus infections are on a downward trend after a flare-up in the number of daily COVID-19 cases for over a month since mid-August.

Compared with mid-August and early September, when the tally rose by triple digits, the country has largely slowed the spread of virus on the back of tougher social distancing measures.

Under Level 1 measures, citizens are permitted to normalize most of their daily routines, with some infection prevention steps in place. Even risk-prone facilities, including clubs and bars, are allowed to operate after monthslong suspension as long as they keep entry logs and follow sanitary measures.

The country also began allowing students on Monday to take in-person classes more often as attendance cap restrictions in schools were eased amid the slowdown in new virus infections.

But health authorities remain on alert over sporadic cluster infections at nursing homes and medical facilities where elderly people, deemed vulnerable to COVID-19, have been infected with the virus.

Cases with unknown infection routes accounted for 13.2 percent of the total cases reported over the past two weeks. The proportion of cluster infections reached 23.7 percent, according to the KCDA.

Of the newly identified local infections, 18 cases were reported in Seoul, 62 cases in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital and two cases in Incheon, west of Seoul. The greater Seoul area is home to around half of the nation's 51.6 million population.

Other municipalities reported new infections, with the country's southeastern port city of Busan adding five cases and South Chungcheong Province reporting 11 new cases.

Seats at the venue of the Busan International Film Festival are arranged for keeping safe distances in the southern port city of Busan on Oct. 21, 2020. (Yonhap)

The country, meanwhile, added 17 imported cases, down from a three-month high of 34 cases Wednesday. Four cases came from the Philippines, followed by three from the United States and another three from France.

South Korea reported three additional deaths, raising the death toll to 453. The fatality rate was 1.77 percent.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 62 as of midnight, down from 70 the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 23,647, up 63 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 2,515,325 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3., including 11,836 tests from the previous day.


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