Korea’s new COVID-19 cases fell below 100 again on Friday, but the government drastically tightened quarantine on arrivals from Europe amid the sharp rises in imported instances as well as continued cluster infections.
The nation detected 87 new cases, bringing the total 8,652 as of midnight Thursday, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals discharged an additional 286 patients, more than three times the newly confirmed cases during the day. Three more patients died of COVID-19, reaching the death toll up to 94.
Although newly confirmed cases tend to decrease in Korea, the number of infections from abroad is increasing.
In Busan, the nation’s second-largest city, a Korean and a foreigner were confirmed to have a new coronavirus on Thursday after staying in Europe for long. A 24-year-old Swiss who left Korea in December and returned on Monday was also confirmed of infection on Monday. Another Korean, 24, who returned after visiting Italy and Spain for a month, was confirmed of infection on March 11, and a 23-year-old woman who had stayed for more than two months in Spain did so on Wednesday.
In Seoul, eight COVID-19 people who arrived from Europe on Tuesday and Wednesday were found to have been infected.
Starting Sunday, Korea will require all returnees from European countries to receive tests for the coronavirus, according to Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health and welfare ministry officials responsible for containing the pandemic.
As Europe shows an explosive increase in the number of COVID-19 patients and deaths, an increasing number of Korean students studying abroad are on their way home.
These students think Korea is safer to stay, and there is no reason to stay in Europe now that most universities have replaced classes and exams online.
A 25-year-old Korean student who has been studying at a university in Paris said that more Koreans who came to France as exchange students are leaving in the middle of the semester.
Korean international students also felt the risk of infection as they saw many French people gathering in parks while all the schools from kindergarten to university have been closed.
In February, the number of imported cases was less than 10 people per week, but it increased to 31 people in the third week of March.
In Korea, meanwhile, the Shincheonji Church is striking back against the government and its critics who pointed to the new Christian sect as the epicenter of local infections. Some church members are taking legal actions against those who they claimed are spreading fake news or malicious rumors about their church.
According to the religious community on Friday, Shincheonji Church has filed more than 1,000 defamations complaints so far against those who have shared information on the internet since the confirmation of the 31st patient on Feb. 18.
Also, the controversy continued over a 17-year-old high school boy who of acute, severe pneumonia on Wednesday. The public health authorities have confirmed that the new coronavirus did not infect the student.
Some healthcare professionals pointed out that the student died five days after hospitalization at Yeungnam University Medical Center without receiving timely treatment despite the high fever.
“Whenever an infectious disease is prevalent, the problem is that patients with other diseases are not being properly treated,” said the Professor Um Joong-sik of Infectious Disease Division at Gachon University Gil Hospital. “For example, if a patient who needs immediate chemotherapy develops a fever, that patient has to take the COVID-19 test and wait until the result comes out.”
So far, Korea has tested 316,664 suspected patients, in addition to the 8,652 confirmed patients. Among the total number of tests, 301,139 tests resulted in a negative response, and 15,525 people are waiting for the test results. The accumulated confirmation rate remained at 2.9 percent, and the fatality rate, at 1 percent.
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