Korea’s new Covid-19 cases marked a single-digit increase for the 11th day in a row on Wednesday, but public health authorities are tightening their vigilance ahead of a nearly weeklong holiday.
The nation reported nine additional coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 10,761, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The death toll increased by two to 246, and the fatality rate remained unchanged at 2.2 percent. Sixty-eight more people left hospitals fully recovered, increasing the number of cured cases to 8,922 and recording the recovery rate of 82.9 percent.
However, the public health authorities remain vigilant as an extended holiday begins on Thursday and continues through next Wednesday, which can lead to mass infections. Cluster infections account for more than 80 percent of new coronavirus cases in the nation.
“For ordinary people, the next several days are a golden holiday. For the health authorities, however, it will be the tensest period,” a KCDC official said, asking the public to abide by quarantine guidelines at resorts and other tourist attractions.
The government plans to ease its stringent social distancing after May 5 -- provided the daily infections remain low until then -- and shift to an “everyday quarantine.”
Health officials, however, are concerned that any premature reopening would lead to another explosive outbreak, as were the cases with some foreign countries, including Singapore.
Most worrisome is when and how the government should open a new school year. Education Ministry officials are reportedly considering starting with ninth and 12th graders, as they did with the online classes, between May 11 and 18, and having students go to school at different times or on different days.
According to the health authorities’ survey of 20,445 kindergartens and elementary, middle, and high schools, on their preparations, preventive environment, and adjustment of education activities, 99 percent of these institutions said they were ready to open as of April 23.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly held a plenary session to approve the second extra budget to provide relief funds to all Koreans.
The government initially decided to set the total amount at 9.7 trillion won ($7.96 billion), including 7.6 trillion won of national expenses and 2.1 trillion won in local expenditures, to give relief money to only people in the bottom 70 percent of the income bracket. Because of bipartisan campaign pledges in the run-up to the parliamentary elections two weeks ago, however, the government increased the total to 14.3 trillion won and decided to give them to all households.
If the bill passes, every four-member family will receive an emergency livelihood subsidy of 1 million won before May 15.
So far, the nation tested 614,197 people and completed 605,890 tests. Among the tested, 595,129 showed a negative response while the rest, 8,307, is waiting for their results. The cumulative confirmation rate is still at 1.8 percent.
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