– S. Korea reports 441 more cases of new coronavirus, total now at 18,706
– 1 additional coronavirus death, total at 313
– 93 more patients released from coronavirus treatment, total now at 14,461
The number of daily new coronavirus cases in South Korea spiked to a nearly six month high of over 400 on Thursday as sporadic cluster infections across the country continued to pile up, adding to calls for the adoption of the toughest antivirus curbs.
The country reported 441 new COVID-19 cases, including 434 local infections, raising the total caseload to 18,706, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
Thursday’s daily tally marks the first time that the country’s daily virus cases surpassed the 400 threshold since March 7 when the country reported 483 cases following the massive outbreak in Daegu and its neighboring North Gyeongsang Province tied to followers of the minor religious sect Shincheonji.
South Korea had been getting the virus under control, when the daily new cases stayed in double-digit figures, until early August.
But the daily virus cases reached 103 on Aug. 14 and have been staying in the triple digits since. Over the past two weeks, more than 3,800 cases have been reported in South Korea, mostly tied to a conservative church in northern Seoul and the Aug. 15 Liberation Day rally.
Of the 434 locally transmitted cases, 313 were identified in the capital area, home to half of the country’s 51 million population. Seoul added 154 more cases, while the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and west port city of Incheon reported 100 and 59 cases, respectively.
Other major cities reported additional infections, with Gwangju adding 39 cases and Busan confirming eight more cases.
Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul, a hotbed of the recent spike in new infections, has so far reported 933 COVID-19 cases. The church-linked cases also led to infections in at least 23 locations, with cases reported in nine different provinces and municipalities outside the greater Seoul area.
At least 219 patients have been reported from the Aug. 15 demonstration in central Seoul, with cases identified in 10 different provinces and municipalities outside the greater Seoul area.
Health authorities have warned that another wave of COVID-19 infections is just around the corner as the virus is spreading across the nation.
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The country’s new virus cases peaked in late February at 909 due mainly to Shincheonji followers in the southeastern city of Daegu. After some ups and downs, the daily tally even reached single digits in late April and early May.
But health authorities have warned that the latest spike is much worse than the previous massive outbreak in Daegu, as the virus spreads in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, while the number of cases with unknown infection routes is rising.
To stem the virus spread, the country implemented the Level 2 social distancing scheme nationwide Sunday, with major cities enforcing even tighter measures on their own.
The capital city decided to ban the use of public transportation for those not wearing masks. Rallies of 10 or more people are restricted.
Under the Level 2 scheme, indoor meetings of more than 50 people and open-air gatherings of over 100 people are banned in principle. So-called risk-prone facilities, including karaoke rooms, clubs, PC cafes and buffets, have been ordered to shut down.
Health authorities said they are looking into options of moving to the toughest Level 3 distancing but have yet to discuss the plan in detail.
If the current restrictions are elevated to the highest level, gatherings of more than 10 people will be banned. Not only high-risk facilities, such as clubs, but also mid-risk facilities, including cinemas, wedding halls and cafes, are advised to suspend their operations.
While domestic infections surge, the number of imported cases fell to single digits, with only seven cases being reported.
South Korea reported one more death from the coronavirus, raising the death toll to 313.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 14,461, up 93 from the previous day.
SOURCE: The Korea Times/Yonhap