New virus cases in Korea rose back to 63 on Wednesday, as imported infections surpassed local outbreaks for two consecutive days to show a two-track spread.
The nation failed to keep the daily tally below 50 on six days this month, one of the criteria for maintaining the Level 1 social distancing measure. As things stand now, the public health authorities will have to engage in a two-front fight for the time being, epidemiological experts said.
The 63 new cases -- 30 local infections and 33 foreign arrivals -- raised the cumulative caseload to 13,244 as of midnight Tuesday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
Fifty-six more people have recovered, increasing the number of cured patients to 11,970, with 989 people receiving treatment. The country reported no new virus-linked death, keeping the death toll at 285. It has tested 1,359,735 suspected patients since Jan. 3. Among them, 1,322,479 people tested negative with the other 24,012 awaiting results.
The 33 imported infections were the highest in 94 days since the nation confirmed 40 new arrivals on April 5. Eleven out of 33 imported infections, or one-thirds, were confirmed during the port or airport screening process.
Authorities asked citizens to refrain from taking trips overseas, although some foreign countries have recently reopened their tourist attractions for visitors. The EU has recently allowed citizens from 14 countries, including Korea, to enter its member nations. The Turkish government even offered compensation for possible damages caused by Covid-19 money to foreign tourists.
"It is good to see that Europe has reopened its gates for travelers, but there are still concerns as the virus's global spread is severe," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a daily meeting. "Please refrain from traveling abroad as much as possible."
Even in inevitable cases, overseas travelers are advised to check the foreign countries’ quarantine policy before visiting, he added. Chung also told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide relevant information in real-time, such as entry conditions.
Prime Minister Chung, who also heads the Central Disease Control Headquarters, also said the government would mandate core quarantine rules for churches across the country.
Pointing out that religious institutions are becoming hotspots for new virus cases, Chung said that about half of the new virus cases have originated from small religious meetings and events inside churches. "While the government will not designate the churches as a high-risk facility, we plan to make it mandatory for religious facilities to keep a log of visitors and worshipers, and forbid various small meetings and meals after service."
Violations of the core quarantine rules can result in fines not only for church officials but also for believers.
Health officials confirmed 17 additional cases in the densely populated greater Seoul areas, where around half of the country's 50-million population lives. Outside the Seoul metro region, they confirmed seven more cases in the southwestern city of Gwangju, most of which traced to a Buddhist temple in the city. Cases tied to a Buddhist temple in Gwangju reached 92 on Tuesday.
Among other regions, three more people tested positive in South Chungcheong Province, and two more in Daejeon.
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