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New wave of imported cases strains Korea’s fight against COVID-19

New cases dip below 60 Sunday after topping 100 Saturday


South Korea saw the number of its new coronavirus cases drop below 60 on Sunday, a day after its highest one-day total in nearly four months due to imported cases involving Russian sailors and Korean workers returning from Iraq.

On Sunday, Korea reported 58 new COVID-19 cases, 46 imported from overseas and 12 locally transmitted, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total caseload rose to 14,150.

Korea reported 113 cases on Saturday, including 86 imported cases, which marked the first time since April 1 that the country saw more than 100.

Of the 46 imported cases, 42 were from Asia -- 38 from Iraq, two from Russia, one from India and one from Hong Kong -- and four were from the United States. Forty-two cases were identified during the quarantine screening process at the border, while four were detected while the individuals were under mandatory self-quarantine in Korea.

The 38 imported cases are among the 293 Korean workers who returned home on Friday from a construction site in Iraq. The government sent two military aircraft on Thursday to Iraq, where some 3,000 cases are being reported daily, to bring them back home safely.

One more person tested positive for the virus after coming into contact with Russian sailors infected with the virus aboard a ship docked in Busan. Altogether, nine secondary transmission cases were reported in connection with the sailors.

In the past two weeks, 63.2 percent of COVID-19 cases have been imported from overseas as the virus shows no signs of abating around the globe.

As for locally transmitted cases, five each were registered in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, and one each in Busan and Gwangju. The cases are linked to several clusters: a nursing home in western Seoul (where 25 cases originated) and an office in southern Seoul (37).

So far, 12,890 people, or 91.1 percent, have been released from quarantine upon making full recoveries, up 24 from a day earlier. Some 962 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine. Fifteen people remain in serious or critical condition.

The death toll stays unchanged at 298. The overall fatality rate stands at 2.11 percent -- 2.48 percent for men and 1.8 percent for women. The rate is much higher for those in their 80s and over -- 24.8 percent -- and those in their 70s -- 9.4 percent.

The country has carried out 1,522,926 tests since Jan. 3, with 19,214 people awaiting results as of Sunday.

By Ock Hyun-ju (