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S. Korea to adjust social distancing level this week

South Korea reported 75 new COVID-19 cases


The South Korean government will decide whether or not to maintain the current level of social distancing rules this week, as the country’s daily virus cases hovered around 70 for the sixth consecutive day Tuesday.
High-risk facilities are required to remain closed and restrictions are placed on the size of gatherings both indoors and outdoors under the current Level 2 distancing regime in place nationwide until Sunday. The government designated the period from Sept. 28 to Oct. 11 a “special quarantine period” in consideration of the back-to-back holidays of Chuseok on Oct. 3 and Hangeul Day on Oct. 9.
“What the government takes into consideration first in adjusting distancing rules after the special quarantine period is the number of new COVID-19 patients,” Yoon Tae-ho, a senior official from the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, said at a briefing Tuesday.
The two-week average for daily new cases dropped to 66.5 during the period of Sept. 20 to Oct. 3, compared to the period of Sept. 6-19 when an average of 121 cases were reported daily.
“We are hoping the proportion of the cases with unknown origins could fall as well,” he added.
The sources of infection for 18.6 percent of the new cases reported from Sept. 24-Oct. 6 have not yet been identified, which could mean the virus is spreading undetected in the community.
The decision is likely to come at the end of this week after watching the impact of last week’s extended Chuseok holiday on the spread of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Korea added 75 new COVID-19 cases, including 66 locally transmitted, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
One more soldier tested positive for the coronavirus from a military base in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, bringing the total related cases there to 37. An initial three cases were confirmed Sunday, with the source of infection and transmission routes unknown. 
A new cluster of infections was traced to a hospital in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, where 14 people have the virus so far. The first patient tested positive Tuesday.
Of Tuesday’s locally transmitted cases, the vast majority were in Greater Seoul -- 13 in Seoul, four in neighboring Incheon and 34 in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital. Outside the Seoul area, nine cases were posted in North Jeolla Province, three in Busan, two in Daejeon and one in Ulsan.
There were nine imported cases. Four cases were identified while the individuals were under mandatory self-quarantine in Korea, with the other five detected during the quarantine screening process at the border. Four cases were from elsewhere in Asia, with three from Europe, one from the United States and one from Ethiopia. Six of the imported cases involved foreign nationals.
The number of COVID-19 patients in serious or critical condition was 105 as of Tuesday.
The death toll stays unchanged at 422, with the overall fatality rate at 1.74 percent.
So far, of the 24,239 people confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus here, 22,083 people have been released from quarantine upon making full recoveries, up 197 from a day earlier. Some 1,856 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine.
The country carried out 13,055 tests in the past day, with over 2.36 million tests conducted since Jan. 3. Some 22,737 people were awaiting results as of Tuesday. 

By Ock Hyun-ju (