Korea’s accumulated total of new coronavirus cases has exceeded 6,000, with two hotbeds in the nation’s southeastern region continuing to turn out most of the additional inflections.
The nation reported 322 new COVID-19 patients over the last 16 hours on Thursday, bringing the total to 6,088, the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Following Daegu and Cheongdo, Gyeongsan, adjacent to the two epicenters, also was designated as the nation’s third “special care zone” on Thursday, by reporting 229 confirmed cases. The three account for nearly 90 percent of entire confirmed cases in Korea.
Experts here advise the government to focus on confirmed patients outside of the new Christian sect as its testing of the church members has finished.
They expressed concerns that COVID-19 patients, whose links to the Shincheonji Church have yet to be identified, can cause local community infections. Currently, small group infections without connection to Shincheonji Church are breaking out nationwide. In some cases, the number of confirmed patients increased to several dozen as the epidemiological investigation progressed.
At a dance studio in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, 80 were confirmed of COVID-19. Additional patients may show up as the dancing instructor confirmed of coronavirus attended a local church service.
Experts also advised the public to continue social distancing while asking the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention and local governments to strengthen measures to block contacts with the infected.
"Shincheonji Church members take up to 56 percent of the total number of confirmed patients because COVID-19 test was focused on the church," said Professor Km Woo-joo of the Infectious Disease Division Professor at Korea University Hospital." However, community facilities such as churches, hospitals, and nursing homes are emerging as new tinderboxes."
Nevertheless, there are too few private testing institutes, Kim said. The number of private testing facilities that can diagnose COVID-19 infection doubled in a month. Still, North Gyeongsang Province has none, and Daegu also has only six, although the two clusters account for nearly 90 percent of confirmed cases. Most of the institutes are concentrated in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.
Meanwhile, major commercial banks began to sterilizing banknotes as part of their sanitary efforts.
According to banking sources, Woori Bank's head office started to sterilize cash sent from branches, and its branches sanitized their coffers. Nonghyup Bank also placed three 20-liters disinfectants and a sprayer at nine support centers regionally to sanitize their cash on Wednesday.
So far, 40 patients, mostly elders with underlying illnesses, have died from the COVID-19, and 88 left the hospital fully recovered, the KCDC said. One patient, a 60-something woman with no underlying disease, died of the virus for the first time on Wednesday. Eighty-eight patients were discharged from hospital fully recovered, more than double the 41 a day earlier.
To help ease the shortage of face masks, the government has begun to increase the supply of “public masks” so that each person can buy at least two sheets a week while cracking down on hoarders and profiteers.
To help raise awareness of the virus among foreigners in Korea, Arirang TV and the state-run Korea Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) are offering simultaneous English-language translation services on daily media briefings by health authorities via Arirang TV's YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/arirang) and KOCIS' website (www.korea.net).
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the number of people tested for COVID-19 totaled 140,775 people, aside from the 6,088 confirmed cases. Among the total, 118,965 showed negative with the results of the other 21,810 being analyzed.
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