South Korea reports 74 new coronavirus cases

SEOUL: South Korea reported 74 new coronavirus infections on Monday (Mar 16), slightly lower than a day ago, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new cases bring the country’s total to 8,236.

The KCDC also reported that 303 more patients had fully recovered and had been released from care. A total of 1,137 people have recovered and been released so far.

South Korea has been experiencing a downward trend in new cases and the latest numbers are significantly lower than the peak of 909 cases reported on Feb 29 and slightly down from the 76 recorded on Sunday.

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“For three straight days we have seen more numbers of discharged than newly confirmed, but we should not forget the lessons we’ve learned,” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing.

Officials warned that “sporadic outbreaks” continued in the hardest-hit areas, such as the southeastern city of Daegu.

The new outbreaks were from unknown sources in other cities, Kim said, adding: “This implies the coronavirus is spreading across the country.”

One new cluster surfaced in Seongnam city south of Seoul, the capital, where at least 40 members of a Protestant church tested positive, including the pastor, after services on Mar 1 and Mar 8, despite government calls to cancel mass gatherings.

Six more people who came in contact with infected church members also tested positive, said Yonhap news agency, making the cluster the second largest in the Seoul area.

Kim urged people to avoid mass gatherings and adopt “social distancing” measures to stifle infections.

“We should not let our guard down,” he added.

New steps to prevent new infections target visitors arriving from countries with major outbreaks, he said.

This week, South Korea adopted tougher border checks for visitors from Europe, similar to its rules for travellers from China and Iran.

On Sunday, it classified the worst-hit provinces as “special disaster zones”, allowing the government to subsidise up to half of restoration expenses and exempt residents from taxes and utility payments.

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