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Sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks continue in Greater Seoul area


South Korea reported a triple-digit increase in new COVID-19 cases for the second straight day Thursday, amid rising cases traced to nursing homes and hospitals as well as the emergence of new clusters of infections mostly within Greater Seoul.

Korea reported 125 new coronavirus cases --106 cases locally transmitted and 19 imported from overseas -- in the 24 hours ending Wednesday at midnight, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Despite ups and downs in the daily tally, a positive development is that the proportion of cases with unknown transmission routes has dropped to 10.8 percent for the past two weeks. Most cases are linked to clusters, which have been identified and tackled by rigorous contact-tracing and testing.

The daily case count has hovered around 100 for the past two weeks since the country eased antivirus restrictions, with 103 new cases reported a day earlier and 88 on Tuesday.

New clusters of infections were detected at a public sauna, where a total of 17 cases were reported, and at an elementary school in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, where a total of 15 people tested positive for the virus.

Another group of infections was reported from a church in Daegu, with 10 cases linked to the church. The first case was reported Tuesday.

In connection with a golf gathering in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, nine more cases were posted, bringing the total related cases to 51.

Of Thursday’s locally transmitted cases, the majority were in Greater Seoul -- 36 in Seoul, 52 in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital, and five in Incheon. Seven cases were posted in Gangwon Province, with three in Daegu and one each in Gwangju, South Chungcheong Province and North Jeolla Province.

Korea reported 19 imported cases. Of them, 10 were identified while the individuals were under mandatory self-quarantine in Korea, with the other nine detected during the screening process at the border. Ten cases were from elsewhere in Asia, while one was from Italy and eight came from the United States. Of the 19 cases, 13 involved foreign nationals.

The number of COVID-19 patients in serious or critical condition here marked 53 as of Thursday.

One more person died from the virus, with bringing the death toll to 462. The overall fatality rate is now 1.76 percent.

So far, of the 26,271 people confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus here, 24,168 have been released from quarantine upon making full recoveries, up 95 from a day earlier. Some 1,641 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine. 

The country carried out 15,018 tests in the past day, with over 2.59 million tests conducted since Jan. 3. Some 26,148 people were awaiting results as of Thursday.    

By Ock Hyun-ju (