South Korea reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases for the 24 hours of Thursday since Feb. 20, with Daegu, the city at the center of the country’s virus outbreak, having reported no new cases.
The country confirmed 27 more novel coronavirus cases, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 20, a day before the spike in COVID-19 infections linked to a “super spreading event” at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu.
Despite the downward trend in new infections, Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Gang-lip warned against complacency, urging people here to stick to properly practicing “social distancing” over the Easter weekend and early voting period held through Saturday for the April 15 general elections.
“No new cases in Daegu is our achievement following three weeks of intense social distancing,” he said. “But the daily infection tally is only a number of the day’s patients, so I think it is reckless to attach any significance to it or make predictions.”
Korea is still on alert due to new infections coming from overseas, small-scale outbreaks at entertainment establishments and hospitals as well as cases whose transmission routes remain unidentified.
Health authorities said Friday they had confirmed five cases linked to a bar in southern Seoul and 18 linked to a bar in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, with epidemiological studies into the mass infections underway.
Of the country’s new cases in the most recent two weeks, 54 percent had come from abroad or were linked to imported cases and 30.4 percent were related to nursing homes and hospitals.
Routes of transmission for some 10 percent of the country’s total cases remain unclear, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As public fatigue grows over practicing social distancing in the protracted fight against COVID-19, the government is preparing to transition to an “everyday quarantine system.” For that, it held the first meeting Friday to draw up quarantine guidelines that members of the public can follow in their daily lives to fight the virus spread.
The government plans to release draft guidelines to the public next week to gather opinions.
The total number of cases stood at 10,450 as of Friday.
Daegu, the country’s epicenter of the virus, added zero cases for the first time in 52 days. On Feb. 29 alone, the city reported 241 new cases. It has accumulated 6,807 cases, and still accounts for approximately 65 percent of all cases here.
Most new cases are now being reported in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, home to 24 million people, almost half of the country’s total population.
Seoul and Gyeonggi Province reported five and nine new cases, respectively. Busan and Incheon reported one new case each.
Of the 27 new cases, five infections came from abroad. Four of those were detected upon entry.
A total of 869 cases have come from overseas, with 91.9 percent involving Korean nationals. Another 137 people were infected with the novel coronavirus through imported cases.
Korea recorded around 50 or fewer daily new cases for a fifth day in a row, a sharp drop from the peak on Feb. 29 when the country reported 909 new cases.
A total of 144 more people have been released, bringing the number of those discharged from hospitals after making a full recovery to 7,117.
Four more people died, putting the death toll at 208.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org