Korea reported no additional domestic virus cases again on Monday, two days before the nation is set to loosen its social distancing to a "daily life quarantine" scheme.
It reported eight new Covid-19 cases as of midnight Sunday, bringing the total to 10,801, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. All additional cases were from abroad, pushing up the accumulated number of imported infections to 1,099. Over the past two weeks or so, foreign inflows accounted for two-thirds of the daily tally.
The two hotspots of Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province, which account for up to 75 percent of local infections, registered no new cases again. Capital Seoul also saw no new domestic infections for two weeks.
The death toll inched up to 252, as two more people died of the new coronavirus. Hospitals cured and discharged 34 more people, increasing the number of recovered patients to 9,217 and lifting the complete treatment rate to 85.3 percent, according to the KCDC.
As of midnight Sunday, the nation tested 633,921 suspected patients. Among the tested, 614,944 people responded negatively to the test, and the other 8,176 people are waiting for the results.
The decline in new infections, notably the domestic cases, comes as the country is to end its 45-day long social distancing campaign and shift to the so-called everyday life quarantine system, on Wednesday.
Despite its decision to relax restrictions, government officials said they believe the country's battle against the new coronavirus will continue for months, or years, to come.
“Our war against Covid-19 has yet to end, and the fight will not end in a short time," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said at a daily task force meeting on Monday. “Now we have to accept life with the coronavirus as a new normal. We are facing the task of making a new life that goes together with the virus.”
The government vows to continue its drive to contain the virus as there is a possibility that more infections could occur under eased social distancing rules, Chung added.
During the meeting, Chung stressed that the government would put a priority on quarantine steps at schools, as it is reopening schools on May 13, starting with high school seniors. Other elementary and secondary school students will begin to go to schools gradually between May 20 and June 1.
Also, amid the slowdown of new Covid-19 cases, the Ministry of Defense will lift its no leave order on soldiers. The ministry had banned all enlisted service personnel from off-base trips in principle since Feb. 22, when the country began to report a drastic surge in coronavirus infections.
To help ease economic pains many working families are experiencing because of Covid-19, the government also began to provide emergency disaster relief funds during the day, starting with about the most vulnerable 2.8 million. These families can receive financial support of up to 1 million won ($833) without submitting an application or visiting government offices.
“The timing of the payment can differ depending on the circumstances of local governments, but all the cash remittances will be completed by Friday,” an official said. “Households that do not apply for the emergency relief funds within three months will be regarded as donors.”
The disaster relief money should be spent by Aug. 31, or it will also be deemed a donation, the official added.
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