Korea reported new Covid-19 cases of above 50 for two consecutive days on Thursday. Local infections popped up in various parts of the country amid the continuous double-digit rise of new arrivals.
The nation recorded 54 new cases -- 44 local infections and 10 foreign cases -- raising the cumulative caseload to 12,904 as of midnight Wednesday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 11,684, up 71 from the previous day.
The country, with a population of 50 million, has carried out 1,295,962 tests since Jan. 3.
Half of the 44 local outbreaks were reported in Gwangju, as the city 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul has emerged as a new hotspot for the virus. While cluster infections in the greater Seoul area were linked to churches, those in Gwangju were tied to a Buddhist temple with 19 cases.
The Gwangju Metropolitan Government decided to jack up its social distancing to Level 2. It is shutting down all of its schools through Friday to prevent the spread of the virus to students and hold online classes instead.
“The spread in the Gwangju area is worrisome, requiring containment as early as possible,” Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said. “From our experience in the southeastern city of Daegu, it takes only a week for new cases to surge from 20 to 200.”
The government is aware of worries among residents in Gwangju and nearby areas. Still, everyone should go back to basic quarantine principles, he said, calling for people to refrain from meetings, keep a distance of at least one meter, and wear a mask.
Park even asked people to wear masks in restaurants when they do not eat food, use individual dishes, and minimize close contacts. “There are 660,000 restaurants in the country, which are very vulnerable to infections as people take off masks while there,” Park said.
Besides the two hot spots, the health officials also confirmed two cases in North Chungcheong Province, and one in Daejeon and Daegu, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said it was moving to provide emergency relief funds to about 100,000 foreign households in the capital.
The move comes after the National Human Rights Commission of Korea issued a policy recommendation on June 11, calling for Seoul and Gyeonggi Province not to discriminate against foreigners in handing out Covid-19 funds.
“About 300,000 foreign nationals are now living in the capital. We will provide an additional 33 billion won ($27.4 million) to help the non-Korean residents,” the City Hall said.
"No standards or payment amounts have been set yet,” a city official said. As the human rights body advised against discriminating foreigners, however, the rules and amounts will likely be set similarly to locals.”
The capital assisted 1.17 million local households with less than 100 percent median income and gave 300,000 won to one- to two-person families, 400,000 won to three- to four-person households, and 500,000 won to a household of more than five persons.
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