Korea reported 81 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, down slightly from 94 a day earlier and recording the 24th consecutive day that new infections have not digressed far from 100, the public health authorities said.
The 81 new cases detected as of midnight Saturday pushed up the cumulative number to 10,237 since the nation found first patients on Jan. 20. Of the total, 741 were imported cases with 58 of them being foreigners. The country’s death toll rose by six to 183 with almost 60 percent of them being already sick patents over 80.
Health officials said the government aims to curb the new cases to below 50 a day, saying it is the level the nation’s healthcare workers and facilities can handle without much difficulty and not being overwhelmed by the new coronavirus. “On that level, we can perform two jobs simultaneously – containing the virus and restoring normal life, if limitedly,” a KCDC official said.
The government decided to extend its social distancing drive for another two weeks at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Saturday. “We have no other choice but to push ahead with an intensive social distancing drive for the time being,” Prime Minister Chung said.
Under the extended campaign, the government will advise the public to avoid public gatherings, including church services, until at least April 19.
Those which cannot observe the guidance, which has no legally binding force, should comply with the regulations set by the government by, for instance, permitting entry only after fever checks and maintaining a space of two meters between them.
For instance, religious facilities should disinfect and ventilate at least twice a day, not providing meals after services. Indoor sports facilities, such as martial arts centers and gyms, should not provide common items such as sportswear and towels.
Offering one such an example, the government held the National Technical Skills Qualification test, which had been suspended for a while due to COVID-19, at a football stadium on Sunday. Organizers of the test took steps by keeping applicants from one another by two meters. The Ministry of Employment and Labor said 25,245 applicants took part in the test.
Acknowledging the fatigue piling up on the public from COVID-19, President Moon Jae-in reemphasized the need for more patience on Sunday.
“We must prevent group infections among the communities,” President Moon said on Facebook. “If such infections continue to repeat, not only the medical staff but the whole country would be exhausted. Religious meetings are one of the factors of clustered infections.”
Meanwhile, Moon has become one of the busiest national leaders in the world, talking with his foreign counterparts over the phone to discuss joint measures to contain the coronavirus.
Over the past few months, he has received many phone calls from global leaders seeking his advice on quarantine or the supply of medical supplies, including test kits.
Korea has become a model in coping with COVID-19. One foreign media outlet after another took note of the nation’s pandemic control through quick release of information and transparent handling of confirmed cases. Unlike some East Asian countries that succeeded in containing the virus by closed their borders, Korea has set itself by not blocking foreign arrivals and suppress the pandemic to a controllable level.
As of midnight Saturday, 138 more patients have fully recovered from COVID-19 and left the hospitals. The total number of recovered cases rose to 6,463, and 3,591 patients are under treatment.
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