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Virus situation in S. Korea not serious yet to tighten distancing: KCDC

South Korea adds 44 coronavirus cases, 24 imported from overseas


South Korea is not yet in a situation where social distancing measures need to be tightened nationwide, although the government is still grappling with both small-scale outbreaks in the country as well as imported cases from overseas.

The nation reported 44 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, with the number of imported cases exceeding domestic ones for the first time in two weeks, as many parts of the world grapple with surging coronavirus infections.

The imported cases are less of a concern, health authorities said, as patients are detected at the border or while under the mandatory two-week isolation upon their entry, with little possibility of the cases leading to community spread.

“All of the patients coming from overseas are being filtered at screening checkpoints or detected while under self-isolation, which means the cases cannot cause secondary transmission in the community,” Sohn Young-rae, a senior official from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said Tuesday at a meeting with reporters.

Of the country’s total 1,714 imported cases, 793 people, or 46.3 percent of them, were detected at the border, with the rest under the mandatory home-quarantine.

Authorities are keeping a closer eye on local cases as they spread the virus in the community, Sohn said, though the number of new local infections is still at a “manageable” level for the country’s health system.

Korea saw about 50 patients per day on average -- 32.64 locally transmitted cases and 17.13 imported cases -- for the past two weeks.

Of the total cases reported Tuesday, 24 cases were imported and the rest were locally transmitted, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the imported cases, 16 were detected during the quarantine screening process at the border and the rest while under home quarantine after arrival. Six of them were from the Americas, one was from Europe and 17 were from Asia.

As for locally transmitted cases, seven cases were reported in Gyeonggi Province, six in Gwangju, three in Seoul and two in Incheon, according to the KCDC.

The total number of infections linked to a previously identified Buddhist temple cluster in Gwangju rose by five to 92.

A total of 474 schools were closed as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, up 227 from a day earlier, with some 378 of them located in Gwangju, according to the Education Ministry. Kindergartens in the city remain shut until July 17.

A total of 46 students and 10 educators have tested positive for the coronavirus since the reopening of elementary, middle and high schools on May 20.

Korea has so far administered remdesivir, an experimental drug conventionally used for Ebola, for 22 coronavirus patients in critical condition here, according to the KCDC. The medication developed by US pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences began to be supplied here last week.

Out of the country’s total 13,181 cases, 11,914 people have been released from quarantine after making full recoveries, up 66 from a day earlier. Some 982 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine.

One more patient died, bringing the death toll to 285. The overall fatality rate stands at 2.16 percent, though it is much higher for those in their 80s or older at 24.87 percent and those in their 70s at 9.43 percent.

The country has carried out 1,346,194 tests since Jan. 3, with 23,675 people awaiting results as of Tuesday.

By Ock Hyun-ju (