Korea reported 27 new coronavirus patients on Friday, marking the first time to see the number fall below 30 since Feb. 20, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The nation’s cumulative total inched up to 10,450 as of midnight Thursday.
Four more patients died of COVID-19, pushing up the death toll to 204. Hospitals cured and discharged 144 more patients, increasing the number of recovered people to 7,117.
Daegu, once Korea’s hotspot of coronavirus, recorded no new cases on Thursday also for the first time.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, while crediting the fall of new cases to a double-digit figure for eighth days in a row, thanked the public for putting up with stringent social-distancing drive.
However, the nation’s coronavirus czar called for continued caution. Noting that he is aware of many churches planning events, Chung requested the Christian community to refrain from gathering people as much as possible during the Easter weekend.
“The religious community has been cooperating well with the government, such as by holding online services rather than face-to-face meetings,” the prime minister said. “Even when it is inevitable to hold meetings, please follow the preventive measures and guide the members to keep a distance of more than one meter from each other.”
Amid the subdued outbreak of COVID-19, Korea began two-day preliminary voting at 3,508 polling stations nationwide on Friday. The National Election Commission will operate special pre-voting stations at eight temporary healthcare centers where mild COVID-19 patients are quarantined.
Medical experts stressed the need for voters to pay more attention to wearing masks, using hand-sanitizers, and distancing one meter from others, as people can crowd polling sites.
“Voters should slightly lower their masks to show their face for identification while remaining silent to prevent the spread of droplets,” said Professor Kim Seok-chan of the Pulmonology Department at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital. “It is better to stay at a well-ventilated place if many people gather at the polling station to vote.”
Professor Ki Mo-ran of National Cancer Center also said, “When voters have to wait for confirming their ID, it would be a good idea to form a line with a certain distance from each other outside of the stations.”
While the overall number of new cases is on a slide, two problems remain – imported cases and infection among the family members, healthcare officials said.
The KCDC has analyzed 2,370 contacts of 30 patients who were confirmed during the early period of pandemic and found that the risk of secondary infection was 42 times higher in contacts among family members than in general contacts. The infection rate of the family contacts was 7.56 percent, while the incidence rate of the non-family contacts was 0.18 percent.
Unlike those who have isolated themselves due to their symptoms, their family members are not restricted from doing activities outside. A cluster of infections can happen if infected family members go to work or engage in religious activities while they are not aware of their possessing the virus.
For this reason, the public health authorities recommend family members of self-quarantined people to limit their work if they work in public facilities.
“Asymptomatic patients can transmit the virus. However, it is difficult for a person who has no symptoms and his/her family members to avoid contacts if they living in the same place,” Professor Ki said. “The best way is to separate the space between the quarantined people and other family members.”
As of midnight Thursday, Korea conducted 503,051 tests on suspected patients and completed 487,753 tests. Among the tested, 477,303 people negatively responded to the diagnostic test, and 15,298 suspected patients are still being tested. The accumulated confirmation rate edged down to 2.1 percent from 2.2 percent.
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