Korea's new Covid-19 cases remained around 60 on Thursday, as outbreaks at commercial, religious and military facilities pushed up local infections.
The nation reported 59 additional coronavirus patients, including 39 local infections, raising the total caseload to 13,938 as of midnight Wednesday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Sixty more people were recovered from the disease to raise the number of cured patients to 12,758, with 883 under treatment. The death toll remained unchanged at 297. The country, with a population of 50 million, has carried out 1,500,854 tests since Jan. 3.
Community infections recorded the highest number in 18 days. Health officials confirmed 30 additional cases in the greater Seoul area, including Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, where about half of the country's 50-million population lives. Gwangju, a metropolis 330 km southwest of Seoul, added nine cases.
As the virus continues its spread in the Seoul metro region, cumulative caseloads in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province currently rank second and third in the nation with 1,526 and 1,479, respectively. North Gyeongsang Province, which once ranked second in accumulated caseload, dropped to the fourth place with 1,395. Daegu, the initial hotbed of the country's virus outbreak, has the most recorded cases, with 6,937.
In Seoul, cases linked to a real estate company in Gangnam-gu totaled 13 on Wednesday, while a church in Songpa-gu also confirmed at least five infected cases.
Besides, infections spawned from a frontline military base in Pocheon, northern Gyeonggi Province, have increased to 14. The authorities have yet to pinpoint the specific path of infection of the first confirmed soldier.
In Gwangju, a patient who tested positive for the virus a week before has been the primary source of the spread. While the patient's infection path is still being investigated, authorities have confirmed at least six cases linked to the patient.
Health officials are also grappling to control imported cases as a double-digit figure continued for the 28th consecutive day. Among the new arrivals, five were detected at port and airport checkpoints. The cumulative number of imported cases reached 2,145, accounting for 15 percent of the total outbreaks, according to the KCDC data.
Of 20 imported cases reported on Thursday, nine were from the U.S., followed by five from Russia and three from Uzbekistan.
In response to the virus's continued spread, the government plans to shift gears toward the long-term fight against Covid-19 by reorganizing Covid-19 screening clinics around public health centers.
Until now, Covid-19 screening clinics were evenly set up at public health centers and private medical institutions.
"As part of the preparation for the prolongation of Covid-19, we will improve the screening clinics that play a major role in preventing the spread of infection," Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Kang-lip said. "The government plans to reorganize selected screening clinics distributed between public health centers and private medical institutions, around public health centers."
If there is a massive increase in demand due to cluster infections, an emergency support team will be sent to respond to the outbreak, Kim added.
Kim stressed that for private medical institutions that have operated screening clinics, the government would ask them to focus on respiratory clinics and relief hospitals' role, restoring their original functions of dealing with general patients.
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