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(2nd LD) New virus cases return to double digits, cluster infections still worrisome

All News 15:01 November 02, 2020

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SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new infections fell back below 100 on Monday, snapping rises of over 100 for five consecutive days, as sporadic cluster infections were still rampant in the wider Seoul metropolitan area.

The country added 97 more COVID-19 cases, including local infections, as cluster infections in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province rose at a rapid clip, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The total caseload rose to 26,732.

The front of a bus in Seosan, 151 kilometers south of Seoul, is decorated with a protective mask, in this photo provided by the city on Nov. 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

The figure marked a slight fall after triple-digit gains for five consecutive days: 103 new cases reported Wednesday, 125 on Thursday, 114 on Friday, 127 on Saturday and 124 on Sunday, it said.

The latest fall came as fewer tests are usually carried out on weekends compared with weekdays. Halloween celebrations on Saturday in the middle of eased social distancing steps were also a cause for concern.

"Daily new cases posted a double-digit growth for Monday, yet we have to consider that the number of tests being taken on the weekend tends to be lower," Second Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae said in a government response meeting.

Since the country eased its three-tier social distancing measures by one notch to the lowest level on Oct. 12, the daily figures have shown ups and downs, hovering around 100.

The latest virus upticks came mostly from senior nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities, but sporadic community infections have been on the rise at small gatherings, including family meetings, across the country.

Halloween is a major concern for health officials as young people gathered in the popular entertainment areas of Hongdae, Itaewon and Gangnam in Seoul.

"People who have symptoms of COVID-19, especially those who have attended Halloween events, religious ceremonies and gatherings should receive tests," KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said in a briefing.

On Sunday, the authorities announced a new five-tier social distancing regulations four months after the government made public the three-tier social distancing steps on June 28. The revisions are more specific and tailored antivirus steps.

The new scheme will take effect Saturday.

The gate of an elementary school located in South Jeolla Province is closed on Nov. 2, 2020, after the school reported two cases of COVID-19. (Yonhap)

By region, 20 new virus cases were reported in Seoul, 40 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 southeastern province of South Chungcheong adding 11 cases.

A music school in Seoul added two more patients, raising the tally to 18 as of noon Monday.

A nursing home in eastern Seoul reported three additional COVID-19 cases, with a total of 13 cases being traced to the facility so far.

From southern Seoul, a sauna reported one more patient, with the total reaching 37.

A rehabilitation hospital from Gwangju, Gyeonggi Provice, added four more cases, with the tally reaching 154.

Health authorities said it is worrisome that there are chains of infections from locations where people cannot wear protective masks at all times, including saunas and restaurants.

Over the past two weeks, 11.4 percent of the newly reported cases had unknown transmission routes. Around 33 percent of the additional cases were cluster infections, the data showed.

"While we hope to find a breakthrough in the development of vaccines and treatments, it is still uncertain exactly when we will actually have a verified and safe cure," Jeong added.

Itaewon, a popular nightlife district in central Seoul, is crowded with people on Oct. 31, 2020. (Yonhap)

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 49 as of midnight, up from 41 the previous day.

The country added 18 imported cases coming mainly from Asian countries, excluding China, down from 23 a day earlier, the KDCA said.

South Korea reported two additional deaths of COVID-19 patients, raising the death toll to 468.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries came to 24,395, up 38 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 2,636,650 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3, including 6,020 tests the previous day.

khj@yna.co.kr

colin@yna.co.kr
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