The local spread of Covid-19 slowed down on Monday, only to be offset by the rebound in imported infections and push the daily total to near 50.
Korea reported 46 new Covid-19 cases -- 16 local infections and 30 foreign arrivals -- raising the cumulative total to 12,484 as of midnight Monday, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-seven more people were recovered, increasing the number of cured patients to 10,908, with 1,295 people getting treatment.
One more person died, increasing the death toll to 281. The nation has tested 1,196,012 suspected patients since Jan. 3. Among them, 1,161,250 people tested negative with the other 22,278 waiting for results.
Although locally confirmed cases fell below 20 on Monday, the surge in imported cases, with most traced to sailors on a Russia-flagged ship docked in Busan, the nation’s second-largest city, has put back the health authorities on high alert as infections that spawn from the vessel may further increase.
It was the first time in 36 days that imported cases exceeded local infections.
According to health officials, 16 of the 30 imported cases came from a Russian-flag refrigerator vessel with 21 crew members. The ship departed Russia's Vladivostok and made port in Busan on Sunday. After the confirmation, officials urgently quarantined 160 people who worked in the vicinity of the vessel and planned to conduct Covid-19 tests on all isolated people.
The number of imported virus cases has been on a steady rise in June, as the nation has already confirmed more than 220 cases this month alone. The total of foreign arrivals is nearly 1,500 since late January.
At home, 11 of the 16 locally transmitted cases came from the densely populated greater Seoul areas, where around half of the country's 50-million population lives, while Daejeon, a metropolis 160 km south of Seoul, added four cases.
The health authorities said Monday that the greater Seoul area, which also includes the western port city of Incheon and surrounding Gyeonggi Province, is already in the second wave of the new coronavirus outbreak, warning that the country should brace for a protracted virus fight. The first wave of the virus outbreak gripped the country between February and March.
The public health authorities have requested related government agencies and local governments to check high-risk facilities in advance and respond proactively.
"Cluster infections originating in the Seoul metro region are spreading to other regions, such as Daejeon, South Chungcheong Province, and North Jeolla Province," Minister of Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said during a daily task force meeting. "This is a critical situation in which we must fight against local infections and overseas inflows simultaneously."
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