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New virus cases slow down as Itaewon-linked infections plateau‘False reports, quarantine violations hinder efforts to contain Covid-19’
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2020.05.16 15:14
  • Updated 2020.05.17 14:02
  • comments 0

Korea reported 19 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, the lowest in a week as cluster infections from Itaewon, Seoul, showed signs of slowing down, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The daily infections fell back to below 20 for the first time in seven days, it said

Nine of the new cases were local infections, overtaken by 10 imported ones also for the first since last Saturday. Itaewon-related infections have grown to 153, including 87 in Seoul.

The death toll inched up to 262, as two more patients have died of the new coronavirus as of midnight Friday. Medical institutions discharged an additional 30 recovered people, increasing the total of cured patients to 9,851. One of such recovered people was a 104-year-old woman, who left Pohang Medical Center after 67 days of treatment. She became the oldest Korean to be cured of Covid-19. So far, the nation tested 741,145 people of Covid-19.

Korea has flattened the infection curve with its massive testing and contact tracing since its first case on Jan. 20. The number of daily new infections, which once peaked at 909, fell to a single-digit figure in the first week of May. However, the government is struggling to stem a potential second wave of infections since it eased restrictions.

Following 45 days of stricter social distancing, Korea switched to an “everyday life quarantine” scheme on May 6 to enable citizens to carry out social and economic activities under quarantine rules.

Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said that lies and quarantine violations had hindered the public health authorities’ efforts to contain the Itaewon cluster infection, requesting the public to refrain from such actions. “The speed of receiving diagnostic tests and practicing quarantine measures is quintessential for preventing the cluster infections from growing into community spreads,” Park said.

For instance, Park said, a hagwon teacher lied about his occupation during the health officials’ epidemiological investigation, delaying the officials’ tracking and leading to the infection of 14 people, including his students and their family members. A father was also infected by his son who tested positive for Covid-19 after visiting Itaewon but violated self-quarantine guidelines and freely moved around.

Park stressed that such unthoughtful actions might result in the virus spreading to close family members or neighbors.

“Secondary and tertiary infections from the Itaewon cluster account for more than 40 percent of recent cases,” Park pointed out. “If you suspect an infection, please do not hesitate to contact the public health center or 1339 for a diagnostic test.”

Minister Park also said that the health ministers of South Korea, China, and Japan agreed to cooperate to tackle Covid-19 and develop a vaccine.

On Friday, the three ministers met and agreed to exchange clinical and epidemiological information on Covid-19 and share their data on the diagnosis and treatment of the virus, he said. During the meeting, Park stressed the need for systemic cooperation in infectious disease response, vaccine and drug development, while also emphasizing expanding exchanges of businesses to tackle the fallout of the virus pandemic.


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