Korea reported 10 more coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 10,728, the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The death toll increased by two to 242. The fatality rate remained at 2.2 percent. Hospitals have fully cured and discharged 8,717 patients, up 82 from a day earlier, recording the recovery rate of 81.2 percent.
So far, the nation has tested 598,285 suspected patients and reported 589,286 results. Among the tested, 578,558 people showed a negative response with the other 8,999 waiting for their results. The cumulative confirmation rate stood at 1.8 percent.
As Korea eased restrictions, there were a far larger number of springtime picnickers at parks and many religious facilities resumed in-person services on Sunday, putting the public health authorities on renewed alert. The health officials, on Friday, unveiled a set of guidelines for major multiuse facilities to shift to“everyday life quarantine.”
The latest guidelines are detailed virus prevention instructions introduced by the government earlier this week that communities and individuals should follow when the country initiates the "everyday life quarantine," a quarantine scheme allowing people to engage in a certain level of economic and social activities while maintaining distance to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
All 12 related government agencies have joined to work out hygiene guidelines in 31 areas, covering almost every situation that people could face in daily lives.
The guidelines call for people to stay home when they show symptoms of Covid-19, such as fever, or have gone overseas in the past two weeks. They are advised to keep a distance of two meters when they meet others.
At work, people are urged to minimize face-to-face occasions and focus on their disinfection routine, such as washing hands. When greeting others, a slight bow is recommended instead of shaking hands. Those who plan to attend religious activities are advised to wear face masks.
The government said these guidelines do not have the legal power, as they are "recommendations," but for some core instructions, it is considering imposing penalties on violators. Health officials said they decided to mandate the guidelines before the country makes its transition to the “everyday life quarantine” because such a system requires a social consensus.
“These guidelines were created to balance people’s daily lives and quarantine activities and aim to begin with people’s understanding and participation,” Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip said. “The guidelines are also prepared with a mind that they can be upgraded with people’s creative ideas.”
The virus prevention guidelines can be found at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s website (mohw.go.kr).
Meanwhile, Tuesday will mark 100th day since Korea found its first Covid-19 patient on Jan. 20.
The new virus cases had stayed below 10 for about a month until it confirmed the first alleged “super-spreader” of 31st patient, a member of Shincheonji Church in Daegu, some 300 km southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 29.
Some of the members of the church also became spreaders and infected hundreds of people in the nation’s fourth-largest city and its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province. So far, the number of confirmed patients in the area has exceeded 8,000. A majority of Covid-19 deaths also came from the region.
The infection curve has now flattened in the region as most of the residents abided by preventive measures, such as social distancing. The number of newly confirmed people dropped below five a day.
Although Korea has managed to curb new infections, the health officials have lingering concerns about imported cases because many countries have failed to flatten their infection curves.
More than 1,000 cases of foreign inflows account for about 10 percent of all confirmed Covid-19 cases in Korea. In January and February, most of the foreign arrivals were from China. In March, however, entrants from Europe increased, and those from the United States later. Beginning this month, the number of foreign arrivals has shrunken due to the reinforced self-isolation period of two weeks on them.
Another concern is how to prepare for the possible second wave of coronavirus outbreak this fall or winter.
“Covid-19 can repeat the cycles of up and down before showing an explosive outbreak again during winter when people tend to stay in buildings,” KCDC Director Jung Eun-kyeong said. “At stake is how to secure sufficient medical personnel and facilities when the second wave of mass infections occurs. And the preparations should begin sooner rather than later.”
As part of its efforts to minimize the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the government will also begin to provide financial support for companies that implement unpaid leaves for its employees, from Monday.
The program targets employees who are facing difficulty making a living because of unpaid leave amid the Covid-19 pandemic and provides each worker with the monthly subsidy of 500,000 won ($405) for three months. The project will cost 480 billion won to benefit about 320,000 people.
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