New virus cases fell back to below 30 Thursday from 51 the previous day, but health officials cautioned against the possibility of explosive spread with a slight carelessness.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Korea reported 28 new Covid-19 cases -- 23 local infections and five foreign arrivals -- raising the cumulative total to 12,563 as of midnight Wednesday. Forty-four more people recovered from the virus, increasing the number of cured patients to 10,974, with 1,307 people getting treatment.
One more person died, increasing the death toll to 282. The nation has tested 1,220,478 suspected patients since Jan. 3.
Eighteen of the 23 locally transmitted cases occurred in the densely populated greater Seoul area where around half of the country's 50-million population lives. Daejeon, a metropolis some 160 km south of Seoul, added four more cases.
“The number of daily confirmed cases still hovers 30. The nation is now at a critical moment when mass infections can happen anytime if we loosen the tension a bit,” Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said at a daily task force meeting Thursday. “As we see now, new virus cases have continued to occur in the greater Seoul area and the middle region of Chungcheong provinces.”
The Seoul metro region, which also includes the western port city of Incheon and surrounding Gyeonggi Province, has accounted for most of the newly confirmed cases since the government relaxed social distancing on May 6.
Despite strenuous efforts to root out the virus in Seoul and Daejeon, quarantine officials have not yet managed to contain spreads from Richway, a door-to-door marketing company, as authorities confirmed new cases linked to the company every day with the total rising to 205 as of Wednesday.
The nation also saw a new cluster infection rise from an automobile club after four of its members gathered at a parking lot in Yeouido Hangang Park along the Han River tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, and confirmed an additional patient who had contact with the automobile club members.
Imported infections have also been rising back, putting health officials on a double whammy. They confirmed at least 17 cases from a Russian-flag refrigerator vessel that made port in Busan, the second-largest city, last Sunday.
The government has strengthened port quarantine, focusing on vessels from high-risk countries, including Russia, to block any further influx through ports.
For ships entering from high-risk countries, the government will investigate the status of residence and crew shifts up to 14 days before arrival. It will also inquire into crew plans on disembarking after making port, cargo detail and unloading methods, and if the ship has any suspected Covid-19 patients.
The health authorities will impose a fine and restrict port entry for ships that do not report suspected Covid-19 patients.
Meanwhile, the Central Disease Control Headquarters said Thursday it would disclose the clinical and epidemiological information of 5,500 cured patients for researchers to help them set up effective anti-epidemic measures in preparation for a second viral wave.
The information range from basic facts, such as the patients’ age, sex, death, and release from isolation, to doctors’ opinions after initial examination, clinical views upon hospitalization, existing ailments, medical records, and the use of intensive care units.
The health officials said they had anonymized all information to protect the patients’ privacy.
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