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There’s no returning to pre-virus normal: KCDC

Korea’s daily coronavirus cases in double digits for 10 straight days

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun convenes meeting for COVID-19 response on Saturday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun convenes meeting for COVID-19 response on Saturday. (Yonhap)

Thirty people were newly confirmed with novel coronavirus infections in South Korea on Saturday, recording a ten-day streak of double-digit daily tally, health officials said.

Korea’s cumulative cases totaled 10,480 according to the Health Ministry, 7,243 of whom have recovered. The remaining 3,026 patients are still undergoing treatment.

As of Saturday, Korea has tested about 510,000 people. This translates to about one in 100 citizens having been tested for the virus at least once.

Out of the 30 new patients, 12 were recent arrivals from overseas. Half of them were detected at the border and the other half after they entered the country. Two of them were noncitizens.

Nearly 55 percent of new infections in the past two week were imported cases. About 20 percent of foreign arrivals are nonessential travelers.

Starting April 1, all arriving passengers are required to self-isolate for 14 days in an expanded screening efforts. Short-term visitors have to stay at state-arranged accommodations attended by medical personnel for 100,000 won a day, a fee which includes room, board and other amenities.

Three more people died, bringing the death toll to 211. The fatality rate now stands at over 2 percent, a steep rise from March 1’s 0.4 percent.

Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vice Director Kwon Jun-wook said 81 percent of all local transmissions were linked to communal activities.

To enforce compliance with the two-week quarantine, the government said electronic wristbands tracking movement will be used for those who violate the orders.

The surveillance measures were announced at a Saturday meeting chaired by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, to be instituted in about two weeks’ time.

According to the Health Ministry’s latest data, a total of 54,583 people were placed under self-quarantine as of Thursday. The number is expected to cross 90,000 at most, as about 2,000 to 3,000 are quarantined each day.

Safety guidance such as keeping 1-meter distance from others, wearing face masks and gloves and refraining from engaging in unnecessary conversations was issued ahead of the parliamentary election slated for next Wednesday.

Wearing face masks is not mandatory but strongly advised at polling stations to prevent transmissions, officials said.

Despite the slowdown, Kwon of the KCDC again urged a strict adherence to social distancing, warning that increasingly more cases with untraceable source of infection were being reported. Korea is half way into the second phase of “intense” physical distancing which ends April 19.

“I will say this as many times as necessary until the message gets through: There is no returning to world as we knew it before COVID-19. We are far past that point. Physical distancing has to be our reality now,” he said.

“Stay at home for your loved ones, for the healthcare workers risking their own safety on the front-line, and for the country.”

Kwon said the race for the vaccines was just getting started, adding there were several steps to overcome before they are available for use.

Saturday marks 83 days since first case was found on Jan. 20.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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