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(LEAD) New virus cases below 100 for 2nd day amid concerns over post-Halloween surge

All News 10:09 November 03, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, tally and remarks in paras 7-8, 12-19)

SEOUL, Nov. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus infections stayed in double digits for the second consecutive day Tuesday, but concerns remain over cluster infections following Halloween celebrations over the weekend.

The country added 75 more COVID-19 cases, including 46 local infections, raising the total caseload to 26,807, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Citizens receive coronavirus tests at a screening station in central Seoul on Nov. 1, 2010. (Yonhap)

The figure marked a fall from Monday when the triple-digit growth fell back to double digits for the first time in six days, the KDCA said.

The number of locally transmitted cases slipped below 50 for the first time in two weeks, while 29 were infected abroad, it said.

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 cases came mostly from senior nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities, but sporadic community infections have taken place at small gatherings of family and friends across the country.

With the continued infections at nursing homes, health authorities plan to carry out large-scale virus tests among seniors at such facilities to prevent the spread of the virus at an early stage.

"Preemptive (COVID-19) tests in nursing homes in the Seoul metropolitan area and other provinces since mid-October helped discover 22 cases in advance and prevented virus spread," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a meeting with health officials.

"The government will expand the preemptive tests in consultations with provincial governments across the nation and other regular tests as precautionary measures."

Workers at senior care facilities wait for coronavirus tests in front of a health care center in Seoul on Oct. 22, 2020, in this photo provided by Seongdong-ward office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Health authorities are still on guard against case increases this week as young people gathered at clubs and bars in Seoul for Halloween parties over the weekend in the middle of eased social distancing measures.

Authorities are paying keen attention to the latest cases, which could affect the new social distancing precautions set to take effect Saturday.

On Sunday, the authorities announced a new five-tier social distancing scheme with more specific and tailored antivirus steps, four months after the government made public the three-tier guidelines.

If the current trend continues, the government is expected to maintain the Level 1 social distancing scheme under revised antivirus measures, which is imposed when the daily infections in the Seoul metropolitan area remain below 100.

By region, 21 new virus cases were reported in Seoul and 15 cases in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. The greater Seoul area is home to around half of the nation's 51.6 million population.

Other municipalities reported new infections, with South Chungcheong Province gaining six cases.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 52 as of midnight, slightly up from 49 the previous day.

The country added 29 more imported cases mainly from the United States and Europe, with 12 Americans, KDCA said.

South Korea reported four additional deaths of COVID-19 patients, raising the death toll to 472.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries came to 24,510, up 115 from the previous day.

The country has carried out 2,649,859 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3, including 13,209 tests the previous day.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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