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New COVID-19 cases remain below 100 for 2nd day
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.03.16 12:57
  • Updated 2020.03.17 14:25
  • comments 0

Korea reported 74 new COVID-19 patients on Sunday, with the total inching up to 8,236. The nation saw the rise of new coronavirus below 100 for two days in a row.

New confirmed cases in the epicenter of Daegu also dropped to 35.

During Saturday, 303 patients were discharged from hospitals fully recovered, widening its gap with new patients occurring daily. So far, 75 people have died from COVID-19, with the nation reporting zero death from Sunday to 9 a.m. Monday.

Despite the notable slowdown in new confirmed cases, government officials warned against premature complacency, as small group infections continue to occur in Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province, stressing that authorities are alert against what one official called the “explosion” of group infections in the capital area.

Municipal officials of Seongnam, a city just south of Seoul, reported Monday that they confirmed 40 COVID-19 patients at a small church. The number of confirmed cases in the Grace River Church has increased from six to 46 over the weekend, marking the most prominent group infection in Seoul and its vicinity, following the 115 at a call center in southwestern Seoul.

As Europe has replaced Asia as the new epicenter, the Korean government announced it was expanding the special entry procedure to entire Europe from Monday.

“The COVID-19 spreading is unusual,” Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said. “Related ministries, including the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, should review whether additional measures are needed to prevent the reverse inflows of the coronavirus.”

Chung noted that the government believes the special entry procedure to only particular countries is not sufficient.

In Italy, the world's second-largest case of COVID-19 infection, the spread did not slow down over the weekend, according to wire reports. As of Monday, Italy reported 24,747 confirmed cases and 1,809 deaths. The fatality rate reached up to 7 percent, about twice the global average of 3.4 percent.

Meanwhile, in response to a controversy over the Korean COVID-19 diagnostic kits caused by a U.S. lawmaker, health officials here said that Korea is testing people with real-time reverse polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) as the World Health Organization had recommended, emphasizing the test kits are fully reliable.

Rep. Mark Green, a Republican, recently argued that the U.S. test kits are more reliable because Korea’s kits only check for immunoglobulin and are not reliable.

Korean officials, however, suggested that the U.S. lawmaker’s citation of the Food and Drug Administration’s reported comment on the unsuitability of Korean diagnostic kits for emergency use might have been misrepresented.

“No countries are diagnosing patients with all the four tests -- antibody test, virus-related antigen test, virus-isolating test, and rapid diagnosis method,” said Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Incorrect information about the accuracy and reliability of our diagnostic tests are also spreading through some YouTube channels, which are not true.”

According to Kwon, the four test kits are undergoing evaluation in the U.S. for FDA’s approval. He said that the U.S. regulator would not make a different conclusion from other countries.

As of midnight Saturday, Korea reported 8,236 COVID-19 patients. The number of people tested for new coronavirus totaled 274,504 people, aside from the confirmed cases. Among the total, 259,533 showed negative with the results of the other 14,971 under analysis.


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