Korea reported only one new domestic virus case on Friday, following zero on Thursday, raising hopes among the people the nation is finally nearing the end of the long Covid-19 tunnel.
The nation recorded nine additional infections as of midnight Thursday, bringing the total to 10,774, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Eight of the nine new cases were imported infections. On Thursday, four new cases were reported, but all of them were foreign arrivals. The nation recorded a zero local infection for the first time in 72 days since Feb. 19, according to the public health authorities.
Four of the eight imported cases on Thursday were detected at the airport. Among the other four, two were confirmed in Gyeonggi Province and one each in Seoul and Incheon.
One more person died of Covid-19, raising the death toll to 248 and maintaining the fatality rate at 2.2 percent. Hospitals have cured and discharged 13 more patients, pushing up the total number of people released from quarantine to 9,072, and the recovery rate, to 84.4 percent.
At a daily coronavirus task force meeting, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government would go all out to keep new virus cases at the current level before shifting to everyday quarantine from May 9 as it promised to the nation. Under the plan, the government will gradually restore the daily lives of the public. Korea has implemented a stringent social distancing measure from March 21 to April 20 to prevent community spread and has since eased the restrictions little by little.
As the health authorities are shifting from short-term to long-term combat with Covid-19, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has set about to recruit more staff, officials said. The ministry needs human resources to work on overall health and welfare-related services aside from Covid-19, as 340 officials, nearly 40 percent of the total, are deployed at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, it said.
“If the Covid-19 pandemic ends within a few months, we could hold on. Since the virus is very contagious and the pandemic is likely to continue abroad, however, we will need more workforce,” said Park Min-soo, a policy planning officer at the health-welfare ministry.
On Thursday, the government held an urgent Cabinet meeting and approved the second extra budget of 12.2 trillion won ($10 billion) to provide emergency relief funds to all households.
“It is important for the government to pay the funds to people quickly and conveniently. The Ministry of Interior and Safety should cooperate with other agencies and localities to shorten the application and payment processes,” Prime Minister Chung said at the meeting.
About 21.17 million households will receive the relief funds ranging between 40,000 won and 1 million, varying by the number of family members of one to four.
As of midnight Thursday, the nation tested 623,069 suspected patients and completed 614,384 results. Among the tested, 603,610 people responded negatively to the test, and the other 8,685 people are waiting for the results. The cumulative confirmation rate stood at 1.8 percent.
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