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(2nd LD) New virus cases over 500 for 2nd day as pandemic deepens on cluster infections

All News 12:17 November 27, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 8, 16, 20-21, 24, 26-27; 1st photo)

SEOUL, Nov. 27 (Yonhap) -- The daily number of novel coronavirus cases in South Korea exceeded 500 for the second straight day Friday as health authorities grapple with sporadic cluster infections across the country amid the third wave of the pandemic.

The country added 569 more COVID-19 cases, including 525 local infections, raising the total caseload to 32,887, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

It marks the first time the country's daily virus cases exceeded 500 for the second straight day since the first wave of infections in late February when a massive outbreak swept through Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province.

The daily caseload has stayed in the triple digits since Nov. 8, with the figure above 300 since Nov. 18, except for Monday.

The latest figure is slightly down from 583 cases Thursday when the daily tally spiked to over an eight-month high, but health authorities worry that the third wave of infections is still in progress.

Citizens wait in line to receive COVID-19 tests at a makeshift virus testing clinic in Seoul on Nov. 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

Of the new locally transmitted cases, 64.2 percent, or 337, were identified in the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's population.

Seoul added 204 more cases, while the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and western port city of Incheon reported 112 and 21 cases, respectively.

All major cities and provinces in the country reported additional cases except Daegu.

The country's southeastern South Gyeongsang Province reported 38 new cases, while South Chungcheong Province added 31 more cases.

Busan, the country's second-largest city, and North Jeolla Province each added 24 cases.

The number of new imported cases came to 44, up from 30 the previous day. The country's total number of imported cases is now at 4,548.

Of the new infections from overseas, 14 of them were from the United States, followed by Austria with eight and Sweden with seven.

A health worker clad in protective gear guides citizens at a makeshift virus testing clinic in Seoul on Nov. 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

Health authorities have been trying to curb another wave of virus infections before a nationwide college exam next week, but cluster infections from private gatherings, public facilities, hospitals and the military are dragging down their containment efforts.

The authorities raised the social distancing level by one notch to Level 2, the third highest in the country's five-tier system, in the Seoul metropolitan area, where the majority of virus cases have been identified, and began to apply enhanced measures Tuesday.

Other municipalities also have been enforcing tougher distancing rules depending on their virus situation. Level 1.5 distancing is currently in place in Gangwon Province and the country's southwestern Jeolla region.

But since the country's virus infections show no signs of letup, health authorities said they are discussing with municipal officials options of enforcing further toughened social distancing rules and that they can come up with a conclusion on Sunday.

Health authorities warned that the upward trend of COVID-19 cases is likely to continue for a while, as they expect the effects of tightened social distancing measures in major regions to appear starting next week.

But they added it is too early to discuss raising social distancing measures in the greater Seoul area, now a hotbed of the virus outbreak, to the second-highest level.

Level 2.5 curbs can be enforced if the country's daily average number of local infections exceeds 400 in a one-week period.

The daily average figure of domestic infections in the past seven days stood at 382.4.

"If we rush to elevate the social distancing level, there could be side effects," said Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official. "It will not work if people get fed up with heightened measures and do not participate."

Citizens wait in line to receive COVID-19 tests at a makeshift virus testing clinic in Seoul on Nov. 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

The country reported one additional death from COVID-19, raising the total to 516. The fatality rate was 1.57 percent.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 77, down from 78 a day ago.

Health authorities said 100 hospital beds are available to accommodate virus patients in serious condition at this moment, but if the current virus situation persists for the next two weeks, the number of hospital beds allocated for critically ill COVID-19 patients may be insufficient.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 27,103, up 153 from the previous day, with 5,268 people isolated for COVID-19 treatment, up 415 from a day ago.

The country has conducted virus tests on 3,009,577 people since Jan. 3. The virus was first detected in the country on Jan. 20.

On Thursday alone, the country performed 21,531 tests, with the positivity rate reaching 2.64 percent, down from 2.68 percent a day earlier.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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