Korea reported new Covid-19 cases of below 20 for two consecutive days on Sunday, as infections related to bars and clubs in Seoul stopped short of developing into anther mass contagion.
The nation saw an additional 13 coronavirus infections as of midnight Saturday, raising the total to 11,050. Imported infections surpassed domestic cases by seven to six, following the pattern of Saturday. Over the past week or so, daily new cases rose to around 30 with local infections dominating new arrivals at a two-to-one ratio.
Public health officials had predicted that the weekend would be a watershed whether the community spread expands or not.
Zero death was reported on Sunday to keep the death toll unchanged at 262. The fatality rate stood at 2.37 percent. Hospitals have discharged 37 additional patients, increasing the total of cured people to 9,888 with recovery rate reaching nearly 90 percent. The number of patients being treated dropped down to 900. Korea, with a population of 50 million, has carried out 747,653 tests since Jan. 3
Health experts said, however, the nation can hardly let its guards down, citing the occurrence of the two “quaternary contagion” case -- a prison guard and a teenage girl who tested positive on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Both have not visited Itaewon, the multicultural nightlife district in Seoul, recently, but got the virus from Itaewon clubbers they had never met through the mediation of acquaintances and karaoke rooms.
The health authorities urged people, yet again, to refrain from visiting closed and crowded facilities, to begin with, and never fail to wear masks if they have to attend weddings and religious events.
The next big hurdle the health authorities have to surmount is the "2020 Lotus Lantern Festival," the largest annual Buddhist event scheduled for May 20-31. The festival will reach a climax on May 23 when about 3,000 people, mainly Buddhists, will walk through major streets in downtown Seoul.
Amid mounting worries about the huge economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the government allowed the normalization of public facilities and other business establishments under the condition that they follow basic sanitary measures. Bars, clubs and karaoke rooms in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and some other local autonomous regions are excluded from the eased policy, however .
Elementary and secondary school students will return to classrooms on Wednesday amid lingering concerns among some parents who call for further delays, citing the infections of some teachers and hagwon instructors.
If Korea witnesses no further resurgence of cases over the weekend, the health authorities believe the nation has passed the worried- about scenario from the Itaewon cluster and push ahead with its schedule of eased restrictions.
Meanwhile, Korean nationals who had been unable to leave Russia due to the quarantine measures headed for their homeland. According to the Korean Embassy in Russia, 239 Koreans, including families of Korean businesspeople and students who had stayed in Moscow, left there on a chartered Korean Air flight.
Foreign Ministry officials say the government plans to bring additional Koreans in Russia back home on two more occasions until mid-June. Russia has recently emerged as the fourth-hardest hit country with more than 280,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
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