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Korea’s new virus cases rebound due to sporadic cluster outbreaks
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.03.19 12:53
  • Updated 2020.03.19 17:42
  • comments 0

Korea saw its new COVID-19 cases rebound on Thursday, as multiple cluster outbreaks occurred simultaneously in its epicenter of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province.

The nation detected 152 new cases, ending the four-day streak of double-digit increase and pushing up the total to 8,565 as of midnight Wednesday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Hospitals discharged 407 patients, more than twice the newly confirmed cases. Seven more patients have died of COVID-19, raising the death toll to 91.

One of the latest victims was a high school student in Daegu, 17, who died of acute pneumonia on Wednesday.

If the final result show new coronavirus caused his death, the student will be the first case of deaths in Korea among people who are not old and who don’t have underlying diseases.

The health authorities tested the student several times, and most of the test results were negative. Certain genetic tests of the student showed a positive response to the virus. Still, the authorities have pended the decision and are conducting additional tests with the secured samples.

Government officials expressed concerns about continuous outbreaks of cluster infections in the old and new epicenters. The Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Thursday that the public health authorities should re-inspect blind spots and gaps in prevention activity as mass infections continue to occur at nursing hospitals at Daegu.

A total of 90 patients were confirmed at five nursing hospitals in Daegu on Wednesday, about a month after the nation’s 31st confirmed patient in the southeastern city proved to be a super-spreader, Chung noted.

In response to the shifting pattern of new outbreaks mainly by incoming Koreans and foreigners, meanwhile, the government implemented a special entry procedure on all people who enter the nation from Thursday, obliging them to go through a tightened medical inspection.

Visitors must submit their addresses and phone numbers and install a self-diagnostic application to report their conditions to the health authorities. If the visitor reports of COVID-19 symptoms for more than two days, health officials will categorize them as suspected patients and make them take a diagnostic test.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced that it had issued the first-level travel alert (blue alert/precautious) to all countries and regions as of Thursday, for the first time.

The ministry said it took the step in part because the pandemic has increased Korean people’s safety, and because many countries are implementing a similar measure against Koreans.

"Those who are planning to travel abroad should check the COVID-19 status and travel restrictions in the countries and regions to which they are scheduled to visit, and review the need for traveling," the ministry said. "Korean citizens staying overseas should take care of personal safety and avoid exposure to COVID-19 virus."

As of midnight Wednesday, Korea tested 307,024 people of COVID-19 infection, aside from the 8,565 confirmed patients. Among the total, 291,120 tested negative with the results of the other 150,904 people under analysis. The accumulated confirmation rate is 2.9 percent, and the fatality rate is 1 percent.


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