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Number of imported COVID-19 cases spikes to 3-month high

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The number of COVID-19 cases entering the country shot up, pushing the number of new cases in South Korea to 62 on Sunday.

According to the country’s quarantine authorities, 62 new cases were confirmed as of midnight Monday, pushing up the total to 13,479. Of the new cases, 43 were individuals who entered the country, and 19 were locally transmitted cases.

The latest figure for imported cases is the highest seen since March 25, when 51 individuals who entered the country were found positive for the disease. Of the 43 imported cases, 18 were individuals who entered the country through airports and ports, and the remaining 25 tested positive while under quarantine. All entrants are required to undergo a two-week isolation period regardless of nationality.

The authorities attributed the rise in imported cases to the pandemic regaining momentum across the globe.

While imported cases account for only 13.9 percent of Korea’s COVID-19 cases, the number is rising rapidly.

According to the quarantine authorities, the number of imported cases has risen from 192 in May to 323 in June, and 288 so far this month.

The proportion of foreign nationals among imported cases is also on the rise. While Koreans account for 71.7 percent of the 1,829 imported cases recorded so far, more than twice as many foreign nationals have tested positive than Koreans reentering the country in the past four weeks.

The authorities, however, say that imported cases leading to local transmissions are unlikely.

“All entrants are isolated for two weeks at home or at facilities, and tested within three days of entering the country,” Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said Monday.

“There is almost no possibility of infected individuals entering the country causing spread of the virus in local communities,” he said, adding that strengthened measures have been introduced in order to prevent imported cases increasing the burden on the country’s public health system.

Starting Monday, foreign nationals entering the country from four high-risk countries – Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan – are required to present negative coronavirus test results.

The high-risk countries are named based on the number of confirmed cases arriving in the country on a weekly basis. According to the government’s figures, 73.9 percent of imported cases in the past month are from Asian nations other than China, which includes Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.

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