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‘COVID-19 will stay for a long period, regardless of season’: KCDC

Virus found on wheelchairs, other items at senior welfare centers, agency says

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

South Korea’s public health authorities on Wednesday anticipated that novel coronavirus infections will persist, regardless of the season, until a vaccine is developed.

“Until a vaccine or treatment is here, we expect COVID-19 to stay for a long period, irrelevant to changes in temperature,” Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a daily afternoon briefing.

“COVID-19 is not abating even though it is summer. In fact, we’re seeing a resurgence after loosened measures in countries around the world,” Jung added.

Korea had a total of 12,198 infections, up 43 from the previous day, as of Wednesday, recording a slight increase in its daily tally, according the KCDC.

One more patient died from COVID-19, pushing the death toll to 279, the KCDC added.

COVID-19 specimens found on wheelchairs and other items used at facilities for senior citizens, largely due to insufficient disinfection, put the aged and health authorities on edge.

Infections have so far occurred at six senior welfare centers in Seoul and the surrounding area, of which transmissions at four facilities were traced to infected staff.

“The epidemiological survey found there were many cases of virus patients working at senior-care facilities transmitting the virus. We also spotted inadequate management, with specimens found on common items, including wheelchairs,” Jung said.

Singing activities at the centers during which those present did not wear masks were also responsible for spreading the virus, Jung added.

Daejeon scrambled to contain a small-scale outbreak presumed to have started from an unregistered door-to-door sales firm, which has affected 59 patients in a month.

A combined 13 people tested positive for the virus on Tuesday and Wednesday, deepening concerns of the disease spreading rapidly in the community, according to Daejeon city officials.

An epidemiological survey was underway, without a clear correlation between the troubled company in Daejeon and a separate unregistered door-to-door sales company in Seoul -- Richway -- at which 176 people have been infected, Jung said.

Community spread accounted for 31 of the new cases, including 25 in the capital region -- 12 in Seoul, 11 in Gyeonggi Province and two in Incheon. There were five in Daejeon and one in South Chungcheong Province, according to the KCDC.

The number of imported cases came to 12, of which seven were diagnosed at airport checkpoints.

A high school senior in North Jeolla Province tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first student in the region to be diagnosed, according to provincial officials.

Meanwhile, two major general hospitals in Seoul have halted clinical trials of the anti-malaria drug chloroquine, touted by US President Donald Trump, hospital officials said.

An Asan Medical Center official said that was “not just because of the (US) FDA decision” but also due to “difficulties in recruiting patients,” according to Yonhap News Agency.

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)
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