South Korea’s daily COVID-19 case count fell to a double-digit figure Thursday after reporting a three-digit gain a day earlier, though health authorities remain on alert over a possible post-holiday resurgence.
Korea added 69 new COVID-19 cases -- 60 locally transmitted and nine imported from overseas -- according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
The government said Thursday that it will announce Sunday whether it will maintain the current Level 2 social distancing rules, under which high-risk facilities are required to remain closed and restrictions apply to gatherings both indoors and outdoors.
“We need some more time to watch the fluctuating pattern of daily COVID-19 cases, forms of the spread of the virus and the distribution of clusters of infections in the aftermath of the Chuseok holiday,” Sohn Young-rae, a senior official from the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, said at a briefing Thursday.
Thursday’s tally marks a drop from 114 cases posted the previous day. Before then, the country’s daily infections had hovered around 70 for six consecutive days.
While Korea is bracing for a three-day weekend, which begins with Hangeul Day on Friday, there are lingering concerns about a possible spike in new infections after the extended Chuseok holiday, which ran from Sept. 30 to Sunday, as millions of people moved across the country for family visits or vacations.
Considering the 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus, the number of those who contracted the virus over the Chuseok holiday could be reflected in the tally this week, officials said.
New clusters of infections emerged Thursday in connection with family gatherings. In Daejeon, 12 people tested positive after a family meal on Sept. 30. In Gyeonggi Province, six cases were reported in Hwaseong and seven in Goyang following family gatherings.
The number of cases linked to a hospital in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, rose to 36.
The sources of infection are unknown for 18.9 percent of the new cases reported from Sept. 25 to Oct. 8, which could mean the virus is spreading undetected in the community.
Of the locally transmitted cases, the vast majority were in Greater Seoul -- 19 in Seoul, five in neighboring Incheon and 22 in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital. Outside the Seoul area, seven cases were reported in Daejeon, five in Busan and one each in North Gyeongsang Province and South Gyeongsang Province.
There were nine imported cases, six of which were identified while the individuals were under mandatory self-quarantine in Korea and three of which were detected during the quarantine screening process at the border. Five cases were from elsewhere in Asia excluding China, one was from Poland and three were from the US. Seven of the imported cases involved foreign nationals.
The number of COVID-19 patients in serious or critical condition was 97.
Two more people died from the virus, with the death toll now at 427. The overall fatality rate is 1.75 percent.
So far, of the 24,422 people confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus here, 22,463 have been released from quarantine upon making full recoveries, up 129 from a day earlier. Some 1,532 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine.
The country carried out 10,771 tests in the past day, with over 2.38 million tests conducted since Jan. 3. Some 20,978 people were awaiting results as of Thursday.
By Ock Hyun-ju (email@example.com