Korea's new virus cases dipped below 50 on Thursday, but cluster infections continued to occur in the greater Seoul area.
The nation reported 41 additional coronavirus patients, including 28 local infections, raising the total caseload to 13,979 as of midnight Thursday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Fifty-nine more people were recovered from the disease to raise the number of cured patients to 12,817, with 864 under treatment. One more virus-linked death was reported, pushing up the death toll to 298. Korea has tested 1,510,327 people since Jan. 3.
Of the locally transmitted cases reported on Friday, health officials confirmed 24 cases in the greater Seoul area, including Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, where about half of the country's 50-million population lives. In detail, an elderly daycare center in Gangseo-gu, western Seoul, reported five new cases on Thursday, raising the number of related cases to 20.
A church in Songpa-gu, southern Seoul, reported at least 18 people in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province as of 2:00 p.m. Thursday after its members did not follow social distancing guidelines that banned gatherings other than regular worship services.
Despite the continued infection cases from religious institutions, the government plans to lift the strengthened quarantine measures on churches, imposed earlier this month, from Friday.
Depending on the decisions by local government heads, however, collective restrictions, including religious institutions, may be maintained in some regions.
In Gyeonggi Province, health authorities have confirmed at least 17 cases traced to an Army unit in Pocheon. Military officers traced the origin of the virus to an outside instructor who visited the base.
Imported infections maintained the double-digit figure for 29 consecutive days.
Among the new arrivals, three were detected at port and airport checkpoints. The cumulative number of imported cases reached 2,158, accounting for 15 percent of the total outbreaks, according to the KCDC data.
Despite a slight decline in imported infections, health officials are on high alert as the new arrivals may go up again as the government has completed chartering Korean workers from Iraq on Friday. On July 15, 45 out of the 105 Korean workers who arrived here from Iraq tested positive for the virus.
According to the government, two chartered planes carrying 290 Korean workers arrived at Incheon International Airport on Friday.
The returnees received a Covid-19 diagnostic test at Incheon International Airport. Also, asymptomatic workers will be moved to a temporary living facility and receive an additional diagnosis. If the test result is negative, they will be in quarantine for two weeks until Aug. 7.
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