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New virus cases over 500 for 2nd day; no letup in sight despite tough virus curbs

All News 09:34 December 03, 2020

SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases hovered above 500 for the second consecutive day Thursday as locally transmitted cases continued to pile up across the country, further raising concerns over a bigger wave of the pandemic in the winter season.

The country added 540 more COVID-19 cases, including 516 local infections, raising the total caseload to 35,703, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The capital city of Seoul accounted for 260 of the total.

The daily caseload marks the highest since 569 reported on Friday last week.

South Korea reported more than 500 daily new infections for three consecutive days through Saturday last week, before falling back to 450 cases on Sunday due to less testing over the weekend.

Thursday's virus uptick came as around 490,000 high school seniors, graduates and others took the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT).

A father wearing a protective mask sees his son off to a venue of the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) in central Seoul on Dec. 3, 2020. (Yonhap)

Health authorities believe that this week will serve as a critical juncture for the nation's anti-virus fight. Should the virus curve not flatten, the country may have to further raise the level of its social distancing scheme.

South Korea adopted the Level 2 social distancing scheme in the greater Seoul area on Nov. 24 amid concerns over the growing number of patients in the region that houses around half of the nation's population.

The country operates a five-tier social distancing system. Under the second level, nightclubs and other high-risk entertainment facilities must suspend their business, while wedding and funeral halls should restrict visitor numbers to a maximum of 100.

Cafes should offer only takeout and delivery services, and restaurants are banned from serving food after 9 p.m.

With no signs of a letup, however, the country decided to add more restrictions to Level 2 starting this month, which banned the operation of sauna and indoor sports facilities. Hotels are also restricted from holding year-end parties.

South Korea can adopt Level 2.5 when the daily average number of cases hovers between 400 and 500 for a week.

The country already meets the threshold as daily new virus cases topped 450 in the past week.

Areas other than greater Seoul are currently under relatively moderate Level 1.5, although individual cities can adopt tougher measures depending on their situations. Gwangju, located 330 kilometers south of Seoul, has adopted Level 2, along with Chuncheon of Gangwon Province.

Along with 260 cases reported from Seoul, 137 cases were from Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, located west of Seoul, added 22 more infections.

As of Wednesday, a cram school located in southern Seoul reported 18 patients, and a call center located in the same district added nine cases.

An online shopping business from western Seoul saw 18 COVID-19 cases, and a chemical firm located in Cheongju, 137 kilometers south of Seoul, reported eight cases.

The country added 24 imported cases.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 117, up 16 from the previous day.

South Korea reported three additional deaths, raising the total to 529.

The number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 28,352, up 287 from a day earlier.

An official gives hand sanitizer to test takers at a high school located in southeastern Seoul ahead of the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) on Dec. 3, 2020. (Yonhap)


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