South Korea stays on high alert as new coronvavirus cases exceeded 60 on Saturday for the second straight day, with infections outside the Seoul metropolitan area and cases from overseas showing no signs of slowdown.
Health authorities said the spread of the COVID-19 virus appears to be picking up speed, amid concerns the country's cases may return to an upward trajectory.
The country added 63 cases, which are composed of 36 local infections and 27 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 13,030, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.
The number of locally transmitted infections fell 16 from 52 a day earlier, while cases from overseas rose 16 from 11, the statement said.
Of the locally transmitted infections, the number of cases from Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, fell to eight after reporting double-digit numbers of daily cases on Thursday and Friday, the statement said.
The greater Seoul area reported 28 new cases, with its surrounding Gyeonggi Province adding 19 new infections. Daegu, once the hotbed of the country's virus outbreak, added one new case. The city accounts for more than half of the country's COVID-19 cases, due to thousands of virus infections traced to a religious sect in the city.
The number of cases affiliated with the US Forces Korea (USFK) reached 47 on Saturday, according to the US military.
In extended efforts to get the COVID-19 virus under control, health authorities on Saturday made it obligatory for all crewmen to take virus tests when they leave their ships for rotation or their off days starting Monday.
The move comes after at least 16 virus cases were reported on a Russia-flagged ship that entered the southeastern port city of Busan last month. The ship, which departed from Russia's Vladivostok, arrived at Busan Port on June 19 and has been docked at Gamcheon Port in the city since June 21.
Moreover, the authorities so far have administered remdesivir, an experimental drug conventionally used for Ebola, to 19 coronavirus patients in critical condition here.
The medication developed by US pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences Inc. started being supplied to treat COVID-19 patients here Wednesday.
Over the past two months, the densely populated Seoul and the surrounding area, which house around half of the country's 51-million population, took up most of the newly added cases here.
The trend has prodded health authorities to focus on curbing the spread of the virus in the greater Seoul area. Last month, they decided to indefinitely apply toughened infection preventive measures in the region amid the growing number of patients from clubs and door-to-door businesses.
With other major cities reporting new cluster infections, health authorities, however, had been under pressure to consider readopting the scheme elsewhere.
The KCDC said Sunday the government will adopt three levels of social distancing and countermeasures, depending on the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The country currently recommends Level 1 social distancing, which is implemented when the medical system can manage the number of virus cases. The government plans to apply Level 2 distancing measures if daily infections exceed 50 for 14 straight days but remain below 100, and Level 3 measures if daily infections far exceed 100, the KCDC said.
Under Level 2, all private and public indoor meetings of 50 or more and outdoor meetings of over 100 will be banned. Under Level 3, all meetings of 10 people or more will be banned, and all students will be prohibited from going to schools.
The country reported one additional death, with the death toll staying at 283.
The 27 new imported cases was the highest since June 23.
Imported cases marked a double-digit rise for the ninth consecutive day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 11,811, up 52 from the previous day. This indicates that more than 90 percent of the COVID-19 patients here have been cured.
The country has carried out 1,319,523 tests since Jan. 3.
The pandemic, which surfaced in China late last year, has killed more than 525,000 people worldwide and infected over 11 million in just a few months, a tally from Johns Hopkins University showed. (Yonhap)