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COVID-19 cases above 100 for 4th day

A man receives a document certifying negative COVID-19 testing at a screening clinic at the National Medical Center in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
A man receives a document certifying negative COVID-19 testing at a screening clinic at the National Medical Center in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
New daily cases of the novel coronavirus in South Korea have increased by 146, bringing the total caseload to 27,799, marking the fourth day in a row above 100, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday.

The death toll rose by two to 487. The fatality rate stands at 1.75 percent.

The triple-digit rises in COVID-19 cases are pushing health authorities to consider an elevation of social distancing measures. The country adopted Level 1 distancing rules Saturday, the lowest in its revised five-tier system.

“If the current level of infections continues, we may have to raise social distancing in the next two or three weeks,” Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official, said in a daily briefing.

Of the newly identified infections, 113 were local infections and 33 were imported.

Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi Province reported 39 and 42 cases, respectively, continuing to make up the largest proportion.

If social distancing regulations are revised to Level 2, Seoul will begin to cut services of buses operating after 9 p.m. by 20 percent, said the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, which last week unveiled detailed guidelines in accordance with the new five-tier social distancing system.

Welfare facilities for elderly and disabled people will be required to limit the number of users to 50 percent of full capacity, if stricter rules are implemented.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo pointed out that children and the elderly experienced difficulties when most social welfare sites were closed in August when Level 2 rules under the old three-tier system were in place.

“In the new system, we will minimize the negative impact that could lead to lack of support and care for them by thoroughly setting virus control rules for those facilities,” he said during a briefing.

Asan and Cheonan, both located in central South Chungcheong Province, adopted the tougher measures of Level 1.5 last week. Wonju, Gangwon Province, joined the move this week, and Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, also raised its social distancing scheme Wednesday.

In addition to cases tied to high-risk facilities such as nursing homes and mental hospitals, secondary transmission cases stemmed from small-scale virus clusters like a bank in Suncheon, a private education institution in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, and a medical equipment retailer in Wonju.

Over the past two weeks, around 35.1 percent of the newly added 1,653 cases have been grouped as cluster infections, followed by imported cases with 20.3 percent, and of those who have come into close contact with infected people at 20.1 percent, according to government data. 

By Park Han-na (