Korea kept new COVID-19 cases to below 100 for third consecutive days on Tuesday. However, cluster infections in Seoul and its vicinity continued to rise to surpass those in the initial epicenter of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province for the first time.
The nation reported 84 new patients of coronavirus, raising the total to 8,320 as of midnight Monday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
During Monday, 264 patients were discharged from hospitals fully recovered, almost three times higher than new patients. So far, 81 people have died from COVID-19 with six fatality reports over the past 24 hours.
Of the 84 new cases, 44 occurred in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province and 37 were in Daegu and its surrounding province. A small church in Seongnam, a city just south of Seoul, turned out 49 new cases over the past two days. Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myeong issued an administrative order on 137 churches within the province not to have close gathering until March 29.
The government needs “in-depth discussions” before deciding whether to ban all religious services, a ranking official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.
The pastor of the River of Grace Church reportedly sprayed saltwater with an unsterilized sprayer on church members’ mouths for disinfection, resulting in the second-largest cluster infection in the capital area, following the 115 cases at a call center in southwestern Seoul.
“We have confirmed after viewing the closed-circuit TV that the church has sprayed saltwater in its members’ mouth on March 1 and March 8,” said Lee Hae-young, the head of Gyeonggi Province’s coronavirus task force. Disinfecting with the saltwater can relieve common cold symptoms. Still, no studies have officially confirmed it can prevent COVID-19 infection, he added.
The KCDC said that Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Moon Seong-hyeok has been under self-quarantine from Monday after having close contact with a confirmed patient.
Minister Moon is Korea’s first ministerial-level official to be under self-quarantine since the COVID-19 outbreak on Jan. 20. However, he showed a negative response to the test.
A total of 27 MOF officials have been confirmed to have COVID-19, and 292 who had close contact with confirmed patients have gone under self-quarantine since Monday.
The government postponed once again the opening of the new school year for the nation’s elementary and secondary educational institutions to April 6, extending from March 23.
Starting Thursday, all people entering Korea will be subject to “special entrance procedures, as the Seoul government is going all the inflows of new coronavirus from abroad, including Europe.
Unlike other countries, which ban travel to virus-hit nations or put all people visiting such nations under mandatory two-week quarantine, Korea has not implemented such measures, except for foreigners who traveled to China’s epicenter of Wuhan and Hubei Province. The nation instead has strengthened its immigration procedures, requiring international travelers to get fever checks and submit papers on their health conditions.
As of midnight Saturday, Korea reported 8,320 COVID-19 patients. The number of people tested for new coronavirus totaled 286,716 people, aside from the confirmed cases. Among the total, 269,425 showed negative with the results of the other 17,291 under analysis.
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