Cluster infections of the coronavirus continued to spread in Seoul and its vicinity on Tuesday, as the accumulated total of Covid-19 cases has exceeded 1,000 in the capital city alone.
Korea reported 38 new virus cases, raising the total to 11,852 as of midnight Monday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Thirty-five of them were local infections, and all but two were confirmed in the greater Seoul area, which also includes the western port city of Incheon and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province.
According to the KCDC, 26 more people were recovered, raising the number of cured patients to 10,589, with 989 people receiving treatment. One more person died of the virus, increasing the death toll to 274. The nation, with a population of 50 million, has conducted 1,035,997 tests since Jan. 3.
The accumulated total of confirmed cases reached 1,015 in Seoul, exceeding the 1,000 mark for the first time.
The daily tally somewhat slowed down from above 50 over the weekend. Still, the public health authorities remained cautious because of the continuous rise in the number of “patients in the dark” – infections from unknown routes.
Reflecting such concerns, the cluster infections in the Seoul metro region have finally spread to immigrant shelters, which have long been considered as potential blind spots, putting the health authorities on extra alert. According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, at least nine patients had been reported at the shelter of a church run by ethnic Korean immigrants from China.
Since the government eased restrictions from social distancing system to everyday life quarantine regime more than a month ago, cluster infections have spread in the capital city and its surrounding area, starting from the multicultural nightlife district of Itaewon to a large logistics center in Gyeonggi Province, newly planted churches on the outskirts of the capital city, a door-to-door vendor’s marketing event, ping-pong clubs, an asylum for the aged and eventually to immigrant shelters.
“The chain of cluster infections, if allowed to grow to near 100 a day, will lead to a second viral wave,” an epidemiologist said.
Despite lingering jitters, the nation completed the reopening of elementary and middle schools on Monday, giving the go-ahead to about 5.3 million students to return to their classrooms. However, 520 schools that have confirmed virus cases among their students will remain closed for the time being. Almost all of these schools are in the greater Seoul area.
To prevent the additional occurrence of cluster infections at entertainment places, the Central Disease Control Headquarters will implement an electronic entry and exit system based on quick response (QR) code for visitors to high-risk facilities for a week starting from Wednesday.
Quarantine officials said they decided to introduce the QR access list to conduct epidemiological investigations more efficiently.
Facilities that must use the electronic access list are pubs, karaoke rooms, indoor sports centers, and concert halls. Personal information and visit records will be separated and managed by the company that issued the QR code and the Korea Social Security Information Service.
The health authorities will collect and combine the data from the company and state agency to identify the person who needs to take an epidemiological investigation. The collected information will be destroyed after four weeks.
If the results of the pilot test prove satisfactory, the authorities will implement the system at broader types of facilities, and for a longer period, the officials said.
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