New virus cases bounced back above 40 on Monday, as a daycare facility for older people in southwestern Seoul expanded community spreads.
Korea reported 45 new Covid-19 patients, including 25 foreign cases, lifting the accumulated caseload to 13,816 as of midnight Monday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Seventy-one more people were recovered, raising the number of cured patients to 12,643, with 877 receiving treatment. The death toll remained unchanged at 296. The country, with a population of 50 million, has carried out 1,482,390 tests since Jan. 3.
Following a brief fall of local cases to a single-digit on Sunday for the first time in 73 days, health officials confirmed a spike in such cases as the nation confirmed 20 local cases on Monday. Of the 20 cases, they confirmed 18 in Seoul, and one in Gyeonggi Province and Jeju Province.
The public health authorities said a nursing home in western Seoul reported nine new COVID-19 cases on Monday, which were not included in the previous day's tally.
They also identified 25 imported infections, prolonging the double-digit occurrence to 26 consecutive days. Of the new imported cases, 18 were detected at port and airport checkpoints. The cumulative number of new arrivals reached 2,092, accounting for about 14 percent of all Covid-19 cases.
As Korea marked the sixth month of the coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday, KCDC Director Jung Eun-kyeong said the nation still needs to resolve shortcomings in responding to severe patients and the shortage of specialists.
"Over the past six months, there have been many crises, such as the cluster infections that spawned from the Shincheonji Church in Daegu and the clubs in Seoul’s multicultural entertainment district of Itaewon, but the cooperation between the government, healthcare workers, and the people have allowed us to control the outbreak," Jung said. "However, the Covid-19 outbreak has also revealed various problems."
Jung cited as examples the increasing fatigue of medical and quarantine personnel and insufficient institutional support for practicing social distance, lack of capacity for responding to critically ill patients, especially professional workforce, and the decline in medical treatment for general patients unrelated with the Covid-19 virus.
"We aim to protect the lives of high-risk groups and minimize social and economic damage by restraining and controlling the scale and rate of occurrence to a level that the medical, quarantine, and social system can handle," Jung said. "To this end, it is important to develop and secure vaccines and treatments that can fundamentally prevent and cure Covid-19."
The nation also has to secure more hospital beds and professional personnel for intensive care so that a general patient's access to healthcare service is not restricted, she added.
Jung stressed that it is also necessary to strengthen protection measures for high-risk facilities, including nursing hospitals, to improve epidemiological response efficiencies, such as screening and contact surveys, and to maintain guidelines based on data.
To “comfort” the people in a protracted coronavirus fight, the government has decided to designate Aug. 17 as a temporary holiday. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun put forth the idea during a meeting on Sunday, saying it would also “help stimulate the economy, allow time off for medical workers and ease the people fatigue from the prolonged fight against Covid-19.”
The designation was approved at a Cabinet meeting presided over by President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday.
“The government hopes that the extended holiday would offer a small consolation to the people in their struggles amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” President Moon said.
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