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Korea inches toward reopening amid concern about cluster infections
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.04.27 14:04
  • Updated 2020.04.28 12:52
  • comments 0

Encouraged by flattened infection curve, Korea is moving cautiously toward reopening, but public health authorities warned against cluster infections, especially by young people frequenting entertainment places.

The nation reported 10 new Covid-10 cases on Monday, marking the ninth consecutive day of confirming new infections hovering 10 and bringing the total to 10,738, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Of the new cases, seven were new arrivals, raising the total number of imported infections to 1,044. More than 90 percent of imported cases were Koreans. Although the number of arrivals from foreign countries has declined sharply in recent weeks to stay around 3,000 a day, the health officials said they plan to maintain tight quarantine measures given the rising share of imported cases.

One more person died, increasing the death toll to 243. The fatality rate is still at 2.2 percent. The figure soars to 23.9 percent, however, for patients in their 80s or older.

Hospitals cured and released 47 more patients to push up the total to 8,764.

Although the Covid-19 infections in Korea have slowed down, there is a lingering concern that the epidemic may reoccur en masse because of super-spreaders in entertainment venues such as clubs and pubs. In Busan, an infected man visited a club, sparking jitters about clustered infection in communities. Entertainment places have begun business as the government eased restrictions.

According to the KCDC, the number of infected cases in local communities has been decreasing, contributing to reducing regional outbreaks to single-digit figures. Since social distancing was relaxed last week, however, bars and clubs have been crowded with young clients, many of whom were not wearing masks.

Starting Monday, the government will apply electronic wristbands equipped with a location-tracking system on people who disobey stay-at-home orders, to prevent the cluster infections of the novel coronavirus. To avoid controversies over human rights violations, however, the public health authorities will give violators two options – wearing the bracelet or being sent to state-designated quarantine facilities.

Reflecting the stabilized supply of face masks and rising demand for them amid loosened social distancing, individuals became able to buy three masks, instead of the previous two, from Monday. Foreigners can purchase their family's masks with the certificate of alien registration.

While presiding over the daily task force meeting, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said that the Education Ministry should be able to tell the nation when and how it will “really” start the new academic year, by early next month at the latest. "The government is reviewing to open schools for our children while maintaining the social distancing regime,” Chung said.

Chung said the government would apply a higher and more conservative standard to the opening of schools than those on shifting to an everyday life quarantine system

To minimize the economic fallout of Covid-19, meanwhile, the National Assembly began to discuss disaster relief payments totaling 14 trillion won ($11.6 billion). The government has decided to provide up to 1.5 million won in subsidy to 320,000 people on unpaid leaves for three months.

The nation, which has a population of about 50 million, has tested 601,660 suspected patients and reported 592,765 results. Among the tested, 582,027 showed a negative response to the test, with the other 8,895 waiting for their results. The cumulative confirmation rate stood at 1.8 percent.


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