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COVID-19 cases near 10,000, authorities call for continued distancing


(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The number of people who have contracted the new coronavirus crept toward 10,000 as the government considers maintaining social-distancing measures.

South Korea reported 89 new cases Thursday, bringing the total number to 9,976, according to Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the new cases, detected in the 24 hours of Wednesday, 21 are in the hardest-hit city of Daegu, 21 are in Gyeonggi Province while 14 are in Seoul.

The government said Thursday that it will announce its plan on whether to extend its two-weeks social-distancing campaign, which was launched March 22, before this weekend.

“We plan to map out detailed guidance that can be implemented and aligned to daily life,” Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Kang-lip said during a press conference.

Running an intensive social-distancing campaign for two weeks can bring down 88 percent of occurrence of infections in general according to the KCDC’s predictions of models based on statistics in China and other countries.

Kwon Joon-wook, director of the National Institute of Health urged strict self-isolation, saying the government is paying attention on possible coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no clear symptoms.

“Given that people can show symptoms of the virus even two days before they appear and high levels of infectivity during the early stages of infection are two major characteristics of the coronavirus that challenge us,” Kwon said.

Death toll rose by four to 169, with more than half of fatalities being patients aged 80 or older with underlying disease.

The death rate among those aged over 80 stood at 18.76 percent, compared to the average rate of 1.69 percent.

The country has sufficient medical facilities but it will make additional efforts to address problems involving treatment for patients with severe condition and regional disparities in access to health care, Kim said.

“We have enough hospital beds nationwide. Hospitals with a large number of patients in severe conditions operate at around 30 percent capacity. The occupation rate for nonmedical coronavirus clinics is at 30 percent,” Kim said.

Over the past two weeks, the country saw 508 new imported infections including 41 cases were caused by secondary transmission.

Alarmed by the rising number of imported cases, the government implemented Wednesday a 14-day mandatory isolation procedure for all visitors from abroad.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said the capital city will run tests on all of Seoul residents who come from overseas.

“Seoul, which has relatively many people coming from abroad, decided to take more preemptive and full measures,” he said.

Out of 20 confirmed cases, 18 people were who entered the country after visiting foreign countries. Korean nationals such as overseas students and those living overseas made up 90 percent and 10 percent were foreigners.

Upon arrival at the Incheon International Airport, those who show symptoms will be required to undergo diagnostic test at the site and those who without symptoms are required to receive tests at a walking through test center at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, or at the closest community health center.

The number of people who have been released from hospitals after full recovery increased by 261 to 5,828. Some 3,979 are receiving treatment, down 176 from a day before.

Of 309 people who returned home from Italy by a chartered plane on Wednesday, one was tested positive. Except for the infected person, others, including 10 who showed symptoms but tested negative of the virus, were transferred to a temporary shelter facility in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. Diagnostics tests on them are underway.

On Thursday, another government-chartered plane will bring 205 Korean citizens from Italy.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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