Korea reported 76 new COVID-19 patients as of midnight Saturday, bringing the total number of infections to 8,162. It is the first time that the daily confirmed cases fell below 100 in 23 days. New confirmed cases in the epicenter of Daegu also dropped below 50.
During Saturday, 120 patients were discharged from hospitals fully recovered, with the number of recovered patients exceeding newly confirmed ones for the third consecutive day. So far, 75 people have died from COVID-19, and 50 of them in Daegu, the nation’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million.
Despite the decrease in newly confirmed cases, the government declared Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province as a special disaster zone, given the outbreak’s ongoing impact on the area.
Nearly 90 percent of Korea’s COVID-19 cases are linked with the southeastern region.
Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun submitted a plan to proclaim a special disaster area to President Moon Jae-in later in the day, and President Moon approved the plan. The declaration is the first in Korea, which designated an area as a special disaster zone because of infectious disease, not a natural disaster.
The declaration of special disaster zone will allow the government to spend state money to support 50 percent of the expenditures needed to recover from the damage affected by COVID-19. It will also provide government support to help maintain affected people’s livelihood, and exempt them from paying utility bills and state health insurance fees.
The government also set new guidelines advising local governments not to release the unnecessary private information of COVID-19 patients.
Until now, localities across the nation have been sending out text alerts to residents against coronavirus infection risks by releasing detailed routes and destinations of the recently confirmed COVID-19 patients.
However, such a process has received some backlash from the public as an invasion of privacy as it revealed detailed information about the patients’ movements. The National Human Rights Commission has also expressed its concerns over the range of private information on the COVID-19 patients on Monday.
To address such concerns, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established an official guideline and released them to regional governments.
Under the new guidelines, the KCDC has advised authorities to disclose information on the destinations patients visited, as well as how they traveled there, but withhold any detailed information that could clarify the identity of patients, including their addresses and employer.
However, the guidelines also stated that such information could be disclosed if the patient may have infected a large cluster of people.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the country would introduce Korea's drive-through test centers. Previously, Trump had questioned the effectiveness of the method.
"We've been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-through tests available in the critical locations identified by public health professionals," Trump said during a White House press conference. "The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car."
The U.S. president reportedly showed a negative response to the virus test.
Although the global epicenter of the new coronavirus seems to have shifted from Asia and Europe, and Korea is experiencing the relative slowdown in new infection, 137 countries and territories were imposing an entry ban or stricter quarantine procedures for travelers from Korea on Saturday.
As of midnight Saturday, Korea reported 8,162 COVID-19 patients. The number of people tested for new coronavirus totaled 268,212 people, aside from the confirmed cases. Among the total, 243,778 showed negative with the results of the other 16,272 under analysis.
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