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(2nd LD) New virus cases in triple digits for 3rd day; authorities warn of upping social distancing level

All News 11:12 November 10, 2020

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SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases rose by triple digits for a third day Tuesday due to a series of cluster infections, prompting health authorities to consider raising the level of social distancing measures.

The country added 100 more COVID-19 cases, including 71 local infections, raising the total caseload to 27,653, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The figure marked a slight drop from 126 cases added on Monday and 143 from Sunday.

The country, which had been operating a three-tier social distancing scheme since the early stage of the pandemic, adopted the Level 1 social distancing on Saturday, the lowest on a revised five-tier scheme.

Commuters wearing protective masks stand at Gwangwhamun Square in central Seoul on Nov. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

The new anti-virus curbs can be applied by each provincial government based on the degree of virus outbreaks, allowing people to carry on with their ordinary lives while wearing masks.

But health authorities are concerned that they may have no choice but to adopt the Level 1.5 scheme nationwide if the daily virus curve does not flatten soon. The higher social distancing level has been already in place in Asan and Cheonan, both located in central South Chungcheong Province.

"The country may revise up the social distancing scheme to Level 1.5 after two or three weeks, should the current trend continue," Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official, told reporters.

"While the daily number of new patients in the greater Seoul area currently hovers around 70, it is relatively smaller in other regions," Sohn added.

South Korea, which experienced major cluster infections from churches and a massive anti-government rally that led to hundreds of virus cases, is struggling to curb local transmissions tied to private gatherings and nursing homes.

Over the past two weeks, around 35.7 percent of the newly added cases have been group infections, with some 13.6 percent not having clear transmission routes.

"Currently, the virus is spreading at a faster pace despite efforts to track the infection routes," Sohn said. "We are experiencing more sporadic small-sized cluster infections rather than major group cases."

Among the locally-transmitted cases, the capital city of Seoul accounted for 32 cases, followed by Gyeonggi Province that surrounds Seoul with 18. Incheon, west of Seoul, reported three new cases.

Gwangju, located 330 kilometers south of Seoul, and South Chungcheong Province both saw four additional infections. South Jeolla Province and South Gyeongsang Province added two cases each.

A dealer wearing a protective mask watches monitors at Hana Bank in central Seoul on Nov. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

A sauna facility in southern Seoul reported two additional COVID-19 cases as of Monday noon, with the total caseload reaching 44. A total of 67 cases were traced to a golf gathering from Yongin, south of Seoul.

A bank in Suncheon, 415 kilometers south of Seoul, identified six more patients, raising the total to seven.

The country added 29 imported cases.

The United States accounted for a whopping 16 cases, followed by Poland with three. There were also cases imported from the Philippines, Uzbekistan, India, Jordan, and France.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 54, down three from Monday.

South Korea reported five additional deaths, raising the total to 485.

The fatality rate was 1.75 percent.

The number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 25,160, up 131 from the previous day. Around 91 percent of the patients reported here have been cured.

South Korea has carried out 2,723,960 COVID-19 tests, including 14,761 the previous day.

Seoul's health authorities said it is "encouraging" that U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Inc. has made a breakthrough in developing a vaccine against the virus

Pfizer said in its press release that its vaccine candidate was "found to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19."

Citizens wait in line at a hospital in central Seoul on Nov. 10, 2020, to receive COVID-19 tests. (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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