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Health officials continue to give grim warning over COVID-19

KCDC investigating first coronavirus cluster linked to school

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip (Health Ministry)
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip (Health Ministry)

South Korean health officials reiterated Wednesday the risks of the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19 appeared to loom over the country, calling for the public’s cooperation in efforts to stifle the outbreaks.

Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing that the recent virus trends showed signs of the infections spreading to parts of the country that have remained relatively unaffected. “Outbreaks in Seoul are now traced to areas as far as provinces of Chungcheong and Jeolla, for instance,” he said.

In an attempt to encourage better compliance with coronavirus precautions, Kim said the ministry would begin taking reports of safety violations on its website. Restaurants in particular were urged to observe protocols such as placing tables 1 to 1.5 meters apart and limiting shared dishes, he said.

“Dining together is among the riskiest activities for contagion,” the vice minister said. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s daily reports, at least 10 major outbreaks have been found at restaurants.

The disease control agency said it was investigating the country’s first coronavirus cluster linked to a school.

Schools in Daejeon have rolled back reopening after two students at a primary school there tested positive Tuesday. The city officials believe the children, both 11, were infected at school. The municipal office of education said 59 schools will suspend in-person classes from July 2-10 while health authorities test all contacts and carry out contact tracing.

The KCDC’s chief Jung Eun-kyeong said the dangers of infections occurring at schools were “hard to avoid.”

“Students as well as faculty members are advised to refrain from visiting risky places such as karaoke lounges and video gaming cafes,” she said.

The case count continues to climb in Seoul and the nearby Incheon and Gyeonggi Province.

The three areas have witnessed the steepest increase in the country since May 1, adding a total of 1,402 cases as of Wednesday. Daejeon came second at 80, followed by Daegu, 49, and Gwangju, 25. Jeju Island only had two over the same period.

Korea is also seeing an uptick in imported cases as the pandemic continues, mostly from other parts of Asia.

“Patients from overseas are bound to rise as the global situation worsens,” said the KCDC’s Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook.

From July 6, those arriving at the country’s seaports are tested for coronavirus and required to self-isolate for 14 days. The boosted measures come in response to an outbreak that emerged among Russian sailors at a Busan port last month.

Korea confirmed 51 more cases of COVID-19 in the 24-hour period ending midnight Tuesday, bringing the total tally to 12,850. Among them, 36 were locally transmitted and 15 were imported. A large majority -- 11,613, or 90.4 percent -- of those diagnosed have been declared recovered and released from care. A further 955 patients are still undergoing treatment. So far, 282 people have died from the disease, leaving the fatality rate at 2.19 percent.

By Kim Arin (