Korea reported 32 additional coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 10,512, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
New cases stayed around 30 for the second consecutive day. It’s been a month since the nation’s new COVID cases fell below 100, and a week since the daily tally dropped below 50. The new cases peaked on Feb. 29, with 916.
The number of patients recovered from the virus and released from hospitals has totaled 7,638, up 125 from a day earlier, pushing up the nation’s recovery rate of COVID-19 to 70.1 percent. Mortality also edged up to 2 percent, as three more patients died to increase the death toll to 214.
Considering the unrelenting COVID-19 spread in the United States, Korea has decided to toughen quarantine measures against the new arrivals from America. From Monday, the public health authorities will conduct virus test on all visitors from the U.S. within three days of arrival after self-isolation. Previously, the health officials tested only those with symptoms after two weeks of self-quarantine.
Out of the total 459 imported infections for the past two weeks, 228, or 49.7 percent were those from the U.S.
To deal with violators of self-isolation more effectively, the government has decided to make them wear electronic waistband. The decision, however, is causing controversy due to questions about its practical effects as well as the possibility of infringing on basic human rights.
As the measure has no legal binding force, the violators can refuse to wear the wristband, causing the issue of equity between those who follow the rule and those who reject it, experts pointed out.
Also, there is no way to prevent unauthorized escape if the self-quarantined people leave their cell phones and wristbands at home. Even when the self-isolated people cut off the wristband from them, it would be difficult to punish them unless they left the designated place for isolation, they added. Currently, about 50,000 people are being self-quarantined but more than 100 violators have violated the guidelines.
On Sunday, the KCDC and other public health officials were on extra alert for two events that might reignite the slowdown in new cases – Easter services and the April 15 parliamentary elections.
President Moon Jae-in, himself a Christian, expressed hope for overcoming the new coronavirus with a “single mind” in his Easter message, amid mounting concerns the Christian holiday could hinder efforts to contain the pandemic.
“There remain many challenges ahead of us but we cannot loosen our containment efforts until the past patient completely cures, and we will surely get over this crisis with a single mind,” President Moon tweeted. The President’s message came, as almost one-third of the nation’s 6,400 protestant churches in Seoul held offline services rather than following the government’s request to offer online services, as the Catholic churches did.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun reiterated his call for church members to avoid large gathering, reminding people of the potential rekindling of cluster outbreaks.
Despite the stringent social distancing, meanwhile, almost 95 percent of Korean voters said they would cast their ballots for Wednesday’s parliamentary polls, putting health officials on an extra alert.
The early voting held on Friday and Saturday showed a turnout of 26.69 percent, the highest early voting rate ever, as 11.74 million people hit the polls, according to the National Election Commission. The previous highest turnout was 26.06 percent for the presidential election held in 2017.
The NEC has decided to allow people under self-quarantine without symptoms to cast their ballots after ordinary people finished their voting at 6 p.m., and at separate polling places, under far more strengthened disinfection steps.
As of midnight Saturday, Korea tested 514,621 suspected patients and completed 487,753 tests. The number of tested people who showed a negative response to the diagnostic test was 490,321, while the other 13,788 suspected patients are waiting for their test results. The accumulated confirmation rate edged remained at 2.1 percent.
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