South Korea’s daily count of new COVID-19 cases bounced back to a three-digit figure Thursday as health authorities warn against social gatherings that could lead to large-scale outbreaks among groups most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Korea added 110 new coronavirus cases -- 95 locally transmitted and 15 imported from overseas -- according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
The count marks an uptick from 84 posted a day earlier due to a cluster of infections detected from a nursing hospital in the port city of Busan. A total of 53 cases were traced to the cluster so far, most of which were included in Thursday’s tally, which reflects cases detected the previous day.
Korea appears to have managed to avoid a major spike in infections in the aftermath of back-to-back holidays and reduced the proportion of cases whose infection routes were unknown to 16.1 percent for the past two weeks.
But the country is battling small-scale and sporadic outbreaks traced to social gatherings among younger population, which health authorities fear could trigger exponential outbreaks at hospitals and nursing homes.
Twelve cases were linked to a pub in Incheon, with a total of 13 cases so far confirmed in the cluster. Two more people tested positive in relation to a social gathering in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province, bringing the total related cases to 25.
No more additional cases were reported from the nursing hospital in Busan as of Thursday after all 103 people who had contacted the first confirmed patient were tested for the virus. One confirmed patient from the hospital died Thursday, pushing up the total related deaths to two. The whole hospital was placed under isolation, with an epidemiological study underway.
Of locally transmitted cases in the latest tally, the vast majority, or 54, were from Busan due to the cluster at the nursing hospital. Other cases were mostly in Greater Seoul -- 22 in Seoul, 11 in Incheon and six in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital. One case each was posted in Daejeon and Gangwon Province.
There were 15 imported cases, nine of which were identified while the individuals were under mandatory self-quarantine in Korea and six of which were detected during the quarantine screening process at the border. Seven cases were from elsewhere in Asia, four from the Americas, three from Europe and one from Africa. Twelve of the cases involved foreign nationals.
The number of COVID-19 patients in serious or critical condition was 82 as of Thursday.
One more person died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 439. The overall fatality rate is 1.76 percent.
So far, of the 24,988 people confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus here, 23,082 have been released from quarantine upon making full recoveries, up 52 from a day earlier. Some 1,467 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine.
The country carried out 9,296 tests in the past day, with over 2.45 million tests conducted since Jan. 3. Some 18,262 people were awaiting results as of Thursday.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org