The number of daily coronavirus cases in South Korea stayed below 200 for the fifth straight day on Monday, but health authorities remain alert over continued sporadic cluster infections across the country.
The country added 119 more COVID-19 cases, including 108 local infections, raising the total caseload to 21,296, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
It marked a sharp fall from 167 additional cases reported Sunday and the fewest since Aug. 14, when the country identified 103 new infections.
The stricter anti-virus measures have begun to take effect, but the fall in daily virus cases also came as virus tests tend to be fewer over the weekend than weekdays.
South Korea has been struggling to contain a flare-up in virus cases as daily infections have been in the triple digits since Aug. 14 due to cluster infections tied to churches and a large-scale rally in central Seoul in mid-August.
New infections shot up to a five-month high of 441 on Aug. 27 but have been slowed on the stricter social distancing measures, which health authorities called a “positive” sign in the virus fight.
The country on Monday continued its enhanced social distancing scheme after it was extended by another week following an initial eight-day regulation period in the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country’s 51 million population.
Under the Level 2.5 measures, eating at restaurants and small eateries is only allowed until 9 p.m. Franchise coffee chains, bakeries and ice cream parlors are permitted to offer only takeout and delivery.
The country also extended its Level 2 social distancing measures across the country by another two weeks until Sept. 20 as cluster infections continued to pop up nationwide.
Of the newly identified local infections, 47 cases were reported in Seoul and 30 from Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, just west of Seoul, reported one more cases.
Other municipalities reported new infections, with the southeastern port city of Busan adding nine cases and the southwestern city of Gwangju reporting seven new infections.
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Cases traced to the Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul, a hotbed of the recent spike in new infections, reached 1,162 as of noon Sunday.
The church-tied cases marked the largest cluster infection after more than 5,000 virus cases traced to the minor religious sect of Shincheonji were reported in Daegu in late February and early March.
Also, 527 patients have been reported in relation to the anti-government rally in Seoul on Aug. 15.
Despite a letup in new cases, health authorities warned against any complacency on concerns that virus infections could rebound due to people’s movements during the upcoming Chuseok fall harvest holiday.
This year’s Chuseok holiday runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4. The Korean autumn harvest celebration is one of the country’s biggest traditional holidays and serves as a chance for family members to visit their hometowns.
The country, meanwhile, reported 11 imported cases, with three cases coming from the Philippines and another three from India.
South Korea reported two more deaths, raising the death toll to 336. The fatality rate was 1.58 percent.
Growing concerns about a shortage of hospital beds have also emerged. The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients reached 162 as of midnight, down one from the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 16,297, up 151 from the previous day.
The country has carried out 2,051,297 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3.
SOURCE: The Korea Herald