The number of new coronavirus patients in Korea totaled 7,313 as of 4 p.m. Sunday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
It marked the increase of 179 cases from midnight Saturday. The KCDC’s really at 4 p.m. is aimed to check the changes in confirmed cases without specifying the areas of occurrence or infection routes.
As of 0 o’clock Sunday, the accumulated number of COVID-19 patients in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province reached 6,462, accounting for 90 percent of the nation’s total. The comparable figures for other provinces and large cities were Gyeonggi Province (141), Seoul (120), South Chungcheong (98), Busan (97), South Gyeongsang (83), Gangwon (27), Ulsan (24), North Chungcheong (24), Daejeon (18), Gwangju (13), Incheon (nine), North Jeolla (seven), South Jeolla (four), Jeju (four) and Sejong (three).
The nation saw its 50th death occur from one of the patients at a nursing hospital in Bonghwa, North Gyeongsang Province. The patient, a 78-year-old woman living in Daegu, was diagnosed with the disease on Thursday and died of pneumonia at Gimcheon Medical Center on Saturday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The mass infection case at the nursing facility is the latest in a series of cluster outbreaks at hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare-related institutions as well as churches in Korea, which account for over 70 percent of total infections here. Korea also saw 12 more patients recover from the highly contagious virus and leaving quarantine, raising the total number of discharged patients to 130.
Amid soaring COVID-19 cases in Korea, the government will start to implement a new distribution plan to help ease the shortage of face masks, which has been one of the major concerns in the country, starting from Monday.
Under the new plan, citizens will be able to buy only two face masks per week from pharmacies, on designated days of the week, depending on the final number of their year of birth. "The goal of the new measure is aimed at evenly distributing face masks amid a serious supply shortage, as many people have had to wait in long lines to purchase them through designated public channels," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a message to the public on Sunday.
China has pledged in this regard to provide supplies to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Chinese Ambassador to Korea Xing Haiming met with Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Gun on Friday and delivered the Chinese government’s intention to support Korea.
During the meeting, Ambassador Xing said that Beijing plans to provide 100,000 N95 masks, 1 million medical surgical masks, 10,000 medical protective clothing, and 50,000 diagnostic kits to Korea if needed.
On Jan. 30, Korea also provided face protection worth $5 million to China.
"Some of the goods sent by the Chinese government have already arrived in Korea," the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said. "Due to a large number of the items and the recent decrease in flights, the logistical situation is a bit unsatisfactory, but we are trying to make them arrive in Korea as soon as possible and deliver it to the urgently needed place."
The health authorities cautiously expressed their hopes on the possibility of the virus subduing.
“Although it may be too soon to say, the spread of the virus could be on the wane,” KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said. “Most recent decline in the number of new cases was largely because of a drop in the number of cases linked to the Sincheonji church in Daegu.” According to the KCDC, the total number of infections that arose from the religious sect amounted to 4,482, which accounted for more than 60 percent of the total cases here.
Jeong quickly turned cautious, however, stressing that the number can still continue to increase if the nation sees a new cluster of infection cases, which may still be highly possible.
"We believe that fresh outbreaks can happen at any time as COVID-19 is highly contagious,” Jeong said. “As of now, 79.4 percent of all infections here have been linked to clusters of mass infection cases.”
Between midnight Saturday and 4 p.m. Saturday, Korea reported an additional 546 patients to push up the total to 7,313. The number of people tested for COVID-19 totaled 174,081 people, aside from the confirmed cases. Among the total, 162,008 showed negative with the results of the other 19,376 under analysis.
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