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(LEAD) New virus cases hit record high of 950 as nationwide cluster infections continue

All News 10:38 December 12, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout; ADDS 2nd photo; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- The daily number of new coronavirus cases in South Korea crossed the 900-mark on Saturday, reaching a record high nearly 11 months after the country reported its first virus case.

The country added 950 more COVID-19 cases, including 928 local infections, raising the total caseload to 41,736, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Saturday's daily caseload marks a sharp jump from 689 the previous day and is the highest mark since January, when the country reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case. The previous record was 909 tallied on Feb. 29.

Cluster infections from private gatherings coupled with massive infections at a church and a hospital pushed up the tally.

Cases in the greater Seoul area accounted for over 70 percent of the total infections.

People line up to receive coronavirus tests at a makeshift clinic at a hospital in the southeastern city of Daegu on Dec. 11, 2020, following the discovery of a cluster of coronavirus cases at a nearby church. (Yonhap)

Among the locally transmitted cases, Seoul added 359 cases, with Gyeonggi Province surrounding the capital reporting 268. Incheon, west of Seoul, had 42 more.

In the western district of Gangseo in Seoul, 59 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus in relation to a church, and in Bucheon, west of the capital, 67 cases were reported from a care hospital.

Authorities urged citizens to strictly follow the current Level 2.5 social distancing measures, the second-strongest curbs under the country's five-tier virus restrictions, saying the rules appear to have had a limited impact on slowing the virus so far.

Health experts have been warning that South Korea could experience a bigger wave of infections in the winter as respiratory viruses usually proliferate when the weather is cold and dry, while people's immune systems generally weaken.

It took more than 80 days for the country to see its virus caseload increase from 20,000 to 30,000. However, it only took 20 days for the country to add another 10,000 cases after its tally surpassed 30,000 on Nov. 20.

Provinces outside the metropolitan area also saw an increase in new infections from various events and places.

The southeastern city of Busan reported 58 cases, followed by Gangwon Province with 36 and Daegu and Ulsan with 35 and 23, respectively.

The country added 22 imported cases, including seven from the United States and three from Russia. The figure is up from 16 the previous day.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 179.

KDCA reported six additional deaths, raising the total to 578.

The number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries came to 336, raising the total to 31,493.

This photo, taken on Dec. 11, 2020, shows a coronavirus test center in southern Seoul. (Yonhap)


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