South Korea’s daily tally of new COVID-19 cases exceeded 300 on Wednesday after staying below 300 for two days straight as new, smaller infection clusters continue to pop up throughout the country.
Korea announced 320 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday -- 307 locally transmitted and 13 imported from overseas -- with the total caseload at 18,265, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wednesday’s tally, which counts cases up to midnight Tuesday, marks a jump from 280 new cases reported Tuesday and 266 Monday, after three days of surpassing 300 -- 397 on Sunday, 332 on Saturday and 324 on Friday.
Of the locally transmitted cases, the vast majority, or 229, were registered in the Seoul metropolitan area -- 110 in Seoul, 27 in neighboring Incheon and 92 in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital.
Outside the Seoul metropolitan area, new cases were reported in all administrative regions except for Sejong, North Chungcheong Province and North Gyeongsang Province. There were 18 cases in Gangwon Province, 12 cases each in South Chungcheong Province and South Jeolla Province, seven each in Gwangju, Daejeon and North Jeolla Province, five in South Gyeongsang Province, four in Busan, and two each in Daegu, Ulsan and Jeju Province.
The number of new infections per day has been in the triple digits since Aug. 14, when 103 new cases were reported.
Sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks continue to occur across the country, with new clusters of infections affecting establishments as diverse as restaurants, hospitals, fitness centers and churches.
At the center of the resurgence of COVID-19 here are a Seoul-based church and a massive rally held in central Seoul on Aug. 15. The number of cases traced to the Seoul-based church and the rally totaled 915 and 193, respectively, as of Monday at noon, according to the KCDC.
Transmission routes for 16.9 percent of the new cases reported from Aug. 12-25 were unidentified, according to the KCDC.
Authorities see this week as the last chance to bring the virus situation under control, and are considering raising the level of social distancing to the highest in the three-tier system -- tantamount to a lockdown -- if the infection rate does not slow down this week.
Currently, Level Two social distancing rules are in place nationwide, under which 12 types of high-risk businesses should be shut down and indoor gatherings of more than 50 people are banned along with outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, among other measures.
Of the 13 imported cases, 10 were identified while the individuals were under mandatory self-quarantine in Korea, with the other three detected during the quarantine screening process at the border. Seven cases originated in Asia, and three each from the Americas and Africa. Six of the newly diagnosed people were foreign nationals.
So far, 14,368 people, or 78.66 percent, have been released from quarantine upon making full recoveries, up 82 from a day earlier. Some 3,585 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine. Forty-three people remain in serious or critical condition.
Two more people died of the coronavirus, with the death toll at 312. The overall fatality rate amounted to 1.71 percent -- 2 percent for men and 1.47 percent for women -- as of Wednesday. The fatality rate is 21.97 percent for those in their 80s or over and 7.2 percent for those in their 70s.
The country has carried out 1,849,506 tests since Jan. 3, with 52,795 people awaiting results as of Wednesday.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org