South Korea virus cases maintain downward trend


Antibody test cartridges of AFIAS Covid-19 Ab testing kit used in diagnosing the coronavirus move on a production line of the Boditech Med Inc. in Chuncheon, South Korea, on Sayurday (April 18). Boditech Med recently started exporting its antibody-based virus test kits to various countries. - AP

SEOUL: South Korea has reported 18 new cases of the Covid-19 (coronavirus), its lowest daily jump since Feb 20, continuing a downward trend as officials discuss more sustainable forms of social distancing that allows for some communal and economic activity.

Figures released by South Korea’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 10,653 cases and 232 virus-related deaths.

The caseload continued to wane in the hardest-hit city of Daegu, where officials say the number of active cases dropped below 1,000 for the first time since a surge of infections in late February.

At least 993 of overall infections have been linked to arrivals from overseas. Most of these cases were detected in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area over the past month as thousands of students and other South Korean nationals returned home amid worsening outbreaks and suspended school years in Europe and the United States.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip on Saturday called for vigilance to maintain the hard-won gains against the virus, raising concern over continuing infections at hospitals and local transmissions health workers have been unable to trace. It would also take a week or two to assess the impact of Wednesday’s national parliamentary election, which showed the highest turnout in nearly three decades despite the epidemic.

While saying that a quick return to pre-Covid-19 normalcy would be impossible, Kim said officials as early as Sunday could announce essential parts of a new guideline that would replace the country’s weeks-long social distancing campaign. Officials have said they are looking for ways to allow people to engage in "certain levels of economic and social activity” while containing the risk of infection.

Government officials have yet to share specific details about the new guideline.

North Korea says it released all foreign nationals from coronavirus quarantine while it continues to strengthen anti-virus efforts.

The official Korean Central News Agency also said Saturday authorities released all citizens who had been quarantined in the provinces of South Phyongan and North Hwanghae, which are near capital Pyongyang, and the city of Rason at a tri-point bordering China and Russia.

The report didn’t specify how many people remained under the country’s 30-day quarantine. Figures from previous state media reports suggest the North would have released close to 10,000 people over the past weeks.

The North had initially placed 380 foreigners under quarantine. The North in March arranged a special government flight to fly out dozens of diplomats to Vladivostok, Russia.

The KCNA says officials are continuing to strengthen "medical monitoring” of its citizens while ensuring normal activity for those released from quarantine.

The North has said there hasn’t been a single virus case on its territory, but the claim is questioned by many outside experts.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a "matter of national existence,” the North has banned foreign tourists, shut down nearly all cross-border traffic with China, intensified screening at entry points and mobilised health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms. - AP
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