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New virus cases subside, but seeds of community spread remain
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.05.18 12:36
  • Updated 2020.05.19 11:39
  • comments 0

Korea reported 15 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, maintaining the daily tally below 20 for third consecutive days, as new cluster infections from bars and clubs in Seoul gradually died down.

However, the health officials warned against hasty complacency, citing the continuous discovery of the quartic infections originating from clubbers.

The total number of new coronavirus patients reached 11,065, including 1,177 imported cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. One more patient died to push up the death toll to 263 but the fatality rate stayed at 2.37 percent. Hospitals have discharged 16 more patients, increasing the total to 9,904. The nation, with a population of 50 million, has conducted 753,211 tests.

Since a 29-year-old male tested positive after spending a night in Itaewon, the multicultural nightlife district in the capital city, on May 6, public health authorities have tested 65,000 people and confirmed 170 positive cases, the largest cluster infection in Seoul.

Although the nation avoided explosive community spreads from the Itaewon cluster, Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo called for continuous alert, citing the possibility of “silent spread,” as seen by a series of quartic infections. Epidemiological experts, too, called for more thorough prevention measures at entertainment facilities, calling for classifying clubs and karaoke rooms as ultra-high-risk facilities with and providing detailed guidelines for them.

The experts also stressed the need for reclassifying the risks of multiuse facilities frequented by the public, now that the nation transited from social distancing to an everyday life quarantine system.

At a daily task force meeting, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun reaffirmed the government’s position to push ahead with opening elementary and secondary schools from Wednesday, starting with high school seniors. “Any further delay will be too frustrating for the 12th graders who had prepared to enter colleges for 11 years,” Chung said. “Besides, we believe the club-related spread will not affect much the reopening of schools.”

The government also began to receive offline applications for emergency relief funds in response to Covid-19 from Monday. To receive the relief fund through local gift vouchers or prepaid cards, one can apply for them by visiting community centers from 9 a.m.

Meanwhile, the cost of illness (COI) of Covid-19 in Korea was estimated to be at least 44 million won ($35,700) per patient, according to Yonhap News Agency. The COI generally comprises medical, non-medical, and indirect costs, such as expenses for patient care and epidemiological investigations as well as the loss of labor productivity.

Based on its analysis, the news agency said the social cost of Covid-19 has reached hundreds of billions of won, given the more than 11,000 cumulative confirmed patients in the nation.


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