Korea added 91 new coronavirus cases -- 71 locally transmitted and 20 imported from overseas -- in the 24 hours ending at midnight on Saturday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Sunday’s tally marks an uptick from 73 posted Saturday and 47 Friday due to clusters of infections detected at a large supermarket, a call centre and a rehabilitation hospital.
Sporadic outbreaks in the Seoul metropolitan area continue to strain the authorities’ fight against the virus. The supermarket and the call center are both in Seoul, and the rehabilitation hospital is in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province.
As the school attendance cap has been raised to two-thirds amid eased anti-virus restrictions -- until now it stood at one-third for elementary and middle schools and two-thirds only for high schools -- more students will take in-person classes starting Monday.
Schools in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s population, are required to comply strictly with the attendance rule, while schools in other regions have more discretion about whether to offer in-person classes, depending on how crowded their classrooms are.
Of the locally transmitted cases in the latest tally, the vast majority were in Greater Seoul -- 18 in Seoul and 48 in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital. Two cases were reported in Busan and one each in Incheon, Daejeon and Gangwon Province.
The proportion of cases where the infection routes were unknown was 15.7 percent for the past two weeks.
There were 20 imported cases, seven of which were identified while the individuals were under mandatory self-quarantine in Korea and 13 of which were detected during the quarantine screening process at the border. Seventeen cases were from elsewhere in Asia, including 10 from Russia, and there was one each from Turkey, the United States and Mexico. Sixteen of the cases involved foreign nationals.
The number of Covid-19 patients in serious or critical condition was 77 as of Sunday.
One more person died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 444. The overall fatality rate is 1.76 percent.
So far, of the 25,199 people confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus here, 23,312 have been released from quarantine upon making full recoveries, up 54 from a day earlier. Some 1,443 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine.
The country carried out 6,002 tests in the past day, with over 2.47 million tests conducted since Jan. 3. Some 17,781 people were awaiting results as of Sunday.
Meanwhile, the amount of money expected to be spent on coronavirus patients -- from the pre-diagnosis stage through recovery -- is expected to total close to 320 billion won ($280 million), the National Health Insurance Service said Sunday.
About one-third of the cost would be taken up at the pre-diagnosis stage, including coronavirus tests, it added.
The total number of coronavirus patients here is projected to reach 33,995 by the end of this year, 8,796 more than Sunday’s tally of 25,199, the NHIS said. That would be a daily average of 119 new patients.
From January to September, it took about $147 million to treat patients in the pre-diagnosis stage which costs up to $140 per patient, while recovery costs about $8,700 for every severely ill patient, and $628 each for patients with mild symptoms.
Patients enrolled in the national health service are exempt from paying bills, as state insurance covers most of the cost and other government bodies cover the rest.
Foreign visitors are also given free care, if their governments do the same for Korean patients, though some -- those found to have breached anti-virus rules -- are held accountable for partial payment.
Foreign patients cost about US$5,200 on average for recovery. Their testing cost has yet to be known, but they accounted for 2.3 percent of the total test cost including local residents between March and August this year. - The Korea Herald/Asian News Network
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