Korea reported another single-digit figure of new virus cases on Friday, curbing the daily tally to around 10 over the past week amid no additional death.
The nation reported six more Covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 10,708 as of midnight Thursday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Two of the new cases were foreign entrants.
The death toll remained unchanged at 240, as Korea reported zero death for the first time in 39 days. The fatality rate stood at 2.2 percent. The figure, however, shots to 23.5 percent for patients in their 80s or older, according to the KCDC. In total, 8,501 patients have left hospitals fully cured, up 90 from a day earlier.
At a daily task force meeting, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government would allow the citizens to buy three face masks a week. The government has been regulating the distribution of masks to two a week per one person since March 9. Chung said that the stabilized supply of protective masks and rising demand amid relaxed restrictions are behind the increased distribution quota.
“Besides, as the nation commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, the government plans to provide 1 million masks for countries who fought alongside us during the 1950-53 conflict,” Chung said.
To tighten vigilance amid loosening social atmosphere, the government will introduce the “safe band” -- an electronic bracelet for tracing self-isolators who disobey stay-at-home orders, from Monday, Chung said. While the nation has flattened the infection curve, experts are pointing out that more attention should be paid for blind spots, warning that clustered infections can break out at any time, he added.
The number of infected cases can increase explosively at any given location and any moment, as was the case with Singapore, Chung pointed out. The city-state had been regarded as a model of the successful anti-pandemic fight, but recently experienced explosive outbreaks mainly due to failures to quarantine immigrant workers.
Professor Chun Byung-chul of the Department of Preventive Medicine of Korea University College of Medicine said immigrant workers are not particularly vulnerable to infections. However, they usually live in groups, and if one gets infected unwittingly, the virus can spread to their whole community. “A surveillance system for prevention such as sample testing is necessary to find the silent spreader,” Professor Chun said.
The lockdown of military bases to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which has been grounding soldiers for two months so far, was partially lifted from Friday.
According to base commanders, an area without confirmed cases in seven consecutive days is regarded as safe, and soldiers can go out of the base. Soldiers will be allowed to visit about 80 percent of cities and districts in the nation.
The Ministry of Nation Defense will further discuss allowing leave of absence, night out, and visitation with consideration of the infection trend. The ministry has been enforcing a more intensive social distancing policy on the military bases than that of the government since February 22.
Korea tested 589,520 suspected patients as of midnight Thursday, and the results of 579,920 were confirmed. Among the tested, 569,212 test results showed a negative response, and 9,600 people are waiting for their results. The cumulative confirmation rate inched down to 1.8 percent.
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