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Coronavirus spread continues to slow

People line up to buy face masks, considered essential as a precaution against the new coronavirus, in front of a pharmacy in central Seoul on Monday, as the nation introduces a new distribution system to ease the acute supply shortage. Yonhap
People line up to buy face masks, considered essential as a precaution against the new coronavirus, in front of a pharmacy in central Seoul on Monday, as the nation introduces a new distribution system to ease the acute supply shortage. Yonhap
The COVID-19 outbreak in Korea appears to be slowing, with the number of new confirmed cases dropping for a third consecutive day.

According to the government’s central response team, the number of confirmed patients came to 7,478 as of 4 p.m. Monday, with 96 new cases reported in the midday tally. The government’s central response team releases the figures at midnight, and updates them again at 4 p.m.

That follows the addition of 248 new infections reported in the midnight Sunday data, which was the lowest daily increase since Feb. 26.

Daily increases have been slowing for three days in a row, with the numbers for Saturday, Friday and Thursday being 367, 483 and 518, respectively.

The 4 p.m. update with 96 new cases was also lower than the 179 confirmed cases added Sunday at 4 p.m. to the midnight figure, while 274 were added Saturday.

The number of deaths from the virus so far stood at 53.

“Having peaked at 916 on Feb. 28, new confirmed cases (fell) to 248 yesterday. This trend must be maintained,” President Moon Jae-in said Monday at a weekly meeting with his top aides.

Moon said, however, that it remained early to be optimistic, and urged the public to cooperate with authorities, as small-scale cluster transmissions continue to occur.

Saying cluster transmissions had mostly occurred in churches, nursing homes and other such facilities, Moon said the government would take preemptive measures such as screening those at high-risk facilities.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 80 percent of cases in Korea are linked to cluster transmission.

“Across the nation, 79.7 percent have been proven to be linked to cluster transmission, and 62.5 percent are linked to Shincheonji,” KCDC Director Jung Eun-Kyeong said Monday. The Shincheonji Church of Jesus is the secretive Christian sect at the center of the outbreak in Korea.

As the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading in Korea appears to be slowing, the country is now looking to prevent the disease from coming in from overseas.

“Assessing the global situation, measures for preventing spreading within communities, and additional inflow from overseas are needed,” said Kim Gang-lip, vice minister of health and welfare.

As part of the plans to contain the outbreak, and to ease the burden on hospitals, the government also plans to secure facilities sufficient to house 4,000 COVID-19 patients with relatively mild symptoms by the end of the week.

Kim also revealed that Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital was taking legal action against a patient who provided false information that led to the facility being partially closed.

The patient, a 78-year old woman, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sunday, but lied several times, saying she was not from Daegu, during the six days she was hospitalized at the institution.

The woman says she gave the hospital false information because she was denied treatment at another hospital due to being from Daegu.

The government is also looking to crack down on hospitals that refuse treatment to patients based on where they live. With COVID-19 spreading rapidly in Daegu, there have been reports of patients from the city being refused treatment at hospitals in other regions.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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