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New virus cases drop to single digit for 1st time in 2 monthsSocial distancing drive to continue, with eased intensity
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.04.19 18:51
  • Updated 2020.04.20 12:44
  • comments 0

Korea reported eight more new coronavirus cases on Sunday, marking the first time the daily tally fall to a single-digit figure in 61 days.

However, the precise comparison of daily confirmed cases can be somewhat difficult because the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has modified the reference time of compiling statistics three times, officials said.

New daily virus cases had been at a single-digit until Feb. 18. The number began to rise with the appearance of a super-spreader, patient number 31, to 34 the following day and 74 two days later. The number of Korea’s daily new cases peaked at 909 on Feb. 29, and has since been on a decline.

Five of the eight new cases on Saturday were new arrivals. Three were in the Seoul metro region – two in Seoul, and one in Incheon, the western port city. Two additional patients were confirmed in Daegu, and one in North Gyeongsang Province. The 8,191 cases in the southeastern city and its surrounding province account for 76.8 percent of the nation’s total of 10,661 as of midnight Saturday.

The nation also had to see two more deaths of the Covid-19 and confirm the death toll of 234. The fatality rate reached 2.19 percent. However, the rate soars to 9.65 percent among patients in their 70s, and 23.24 percent among those in their 80s or older.

The number of patients released from quarantine after making full recoveries reached 8,042, up 105 from a day earlier, recording the recovery rate of 75 percent. However, the number of people who retested positive after recovery stood at 173, 2.1 percent of the total cured cases.

Nearly 50 percent of the reconfirmed patients are having no or mild symptoms, officials said, adding that there are no cases of secondary infections from them.

The officials suspect such cases are due to the reactivation of the virus.

Despite the slowing new cases and rising popular interests in going back to normalcy, the government has decided to maintain the social distancing drive, albeit with relaxed intensity, for another two weeks until the Children’s Day on May 5. “In terms of quarantine, it is safest to continue high-intensify social distancing but it is not easy in reality,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said.

The decision came in part after taking into account the upcoming long holidays, starting with Buddha’s Birthday on April 30, May Day on May 1, and Children’s Day on May 5, which can extend to an almost weeklong holiday, including the weekend. The health authorities are concerned about people making travels and conducting other outdoor activities briskly during the long holiday.

Maintaining distance from others in public places, daily sanitizing and wearing masks will be kept in place, Prime Minister Chung said. However, the administrative orders on churches, cars, gyms and private educational institutions that strongly recommended their temporary closures will be lifted on condition that they comply with strict quarantine rules. The government will also begin to allow essential qualification tests or recruitment exams, he added.

Chung said that if the flattened infection curve continues, the government will consider shifting from social distancing to a “distancing in everyday life” after May 5.

Commenting on the reopening of schools, Chung said the government would consider allowing schools to reopen gradually, calling on the education ministry to review the matter carefully. Schools have begun holding online classes but students and teachers are experiencing inconvenience because of technical and other problems.

As of midnight Saturday, Korea tested 559,109 suspected patients and completed 546,866 tests. Among the tested people, 536,205 showed a negative response to the test, and 12,243 of them are waiting for the test results. The accumulated confirmation rate slightly decreased from 2.0 to 1.9 percent.


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