Korea reported 31 new cases of the new coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 82, with most new cases occurring in the southeastern region of Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province.
Twenty-three of the 30 new cases in the region contacted the 31st patient who had refused screening despite showing pneumonia symptoms, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. KCDC’s epidemiological investigations identified that the 23 confirmed patients attended the same church as the 31st patient.
The 31st patient stayed in the hospital and went out several times. She attended the service at the Shincheonji Church on Feb. 9 and Feb. 16.
Two patients were confirmed in Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province, and the government is conducting an epidemiological probe into the other five patients. The last patient with pneumonia was confirmed in Seoul through screening at a public health center in Jongno in the heart of the capital city.
Twenty patients were confirmed in a single day, raising concerns about COVID-19 among the public. The situation worsened as Korea added 31 new patients up to 82. The 31st patient is emerging as the “super spreader,” allegedly having infected 38 new patients.
A child was first confirmed Wednesday. The patient is an 11-year-old daughter of the 20th patient who contacted the 15th patient living in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. The girl is quarantined at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital.
The government said in a regular briefing on Thursday that the current situation can be judged as the beginning of community-acquired infection within a limited range in Korea. This is the first time the government officially admitted the community-acquired infection.
As the way of COVID-19 spread has changed, the government changed its prevention measures from intensifying the blockade of new inflows to finding the infected patients at early stages.
The government decided to expand the definition of cases to test potential patients more actively even if they do not have international travel history. Amid the surge of new cases, some were diagnosed without knowing they were infected because of minor symptoms.
The Korean Society for Preventive Medicine pointed out that during the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2015, most of the infections occurred at hospitals, frequented by numerous people.
"Currently, the church is not defined as a multi-use facility because it is not open for 24 hours, but we should consider designating churches as multi-use facilities this time," the society said.
As of Thursday morning, the KCDC has confirmed 12,161 cases of screening, and 10,446 patients showed a negative response to the test and released while 1,633 patients are under the screening. The total number of fully recovered and discharged patients is 16.
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