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Unrelenting church-linked infections raise worries about new viral wave
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.06.03 12:34
  • Updated 2020.06.03 16:45
  • comments 0

Korea’s new Covid-19 cases rebounded on Wednesday, as cluster infections linked to religious gatherings in the Seoul metro region showed few signs of decline amid the broader school reopening.

The nation reported an additional 49 coronavirus cases Wednesday, and 48 of them occurred in the greater Seoul area, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The cumulative caseload climbed to 11,590. One more patient died, raising the death toll to 273. Hospitals have cured 10,467 patients by adding 21 newly recovered patients. About 90 percent of Covid-19 patients have been healed. Korea has carried out 956,852 Covid-19 tests since Jan.3, including 17,001 a day earlier.

The rebound in local infections came as the country marked one month of shifting from the social distancing system to the everyday life quarantine regime.

During the past month, the public health authorities have had to fight against a series of community infections that started at nightlife establishments in Seoul, a large logistics center in the capital’s vicinity and smaller churches and religious gatherings.

As of Tuesday, some 270 infections have been linked to clubbers and 117 cases to the warehouse run by e-commerce giant, Coupang.

Church-tied transmissions in the Seoul metro region have also been the new source of concern for health officials.

After the government announced eased quarantine guidelines early last month, the nation has reported more than 100 virus cases originating from churches, mostly newly planted ones on the outskirts of the capital city and its surrounding province.

Infectious disease experts stressed that people should get used to the everyday life quarantine practices, such as wearing a mask at the workplace and taking rest when sick, as new normal because mass infections can emerge at any moment if people do not follow the guidelines for preventing virus transmission.

Starting from Wednesday, an additional 1.78 million elementary, middle and high school students went to schools. In addition to the 2.81 million students who have been attending school, 77 percent of the nation's 5.95 million students have joined the offline class.

Parents in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province, and Incheon were especially concerned as cluster infections continued to pop up in and around the capital city, home to half of the nation’s 50 million population.

Education Ministry officials said that although sources of community spreads remain, the nation will be able to deal with the class reopening. The ministry plans to go ahead with the fourth and last phase of school reopening next Monday, allowing all of the nation’s schools to accept their students, except for some 500 schools that voluntarily suspended opening due to lingering risks.

Reflecting on the importance of quarantine administration, the government decided to separate the KCDC from the Ministry of Health and Welfare and set it up as an independent agency.

To help ease the financial difficulties of families and businesses and jumpstart the economy, the government and ruling party also finalized the third revised supplementary budget of 35.3 trillion won ($29.04 billion), the largest ever in the nation's history.


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