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(3rd LD) New virus cases bounce back to over 40 on surge in imported cases

22:46 July 29, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 12, 20-22)

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- The number of new daily coronavirus in South Korea bounced back to above 40 Wednesday as both imported cases and local transmissions climbed up.

The country added 48 cases, including 34 imported cases, raising the total caseload to 14,251, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The tally marked a sharp increase from 25 new virus cases reported Monday and 28 cases Tuesday.

Infections coming in from overseas have risen steadily by double-digit numbers for 34 consecutive days. The number of imported cases spiked to a record 86 on Saturday before dropping to 46 Sunday and 16 Monday.

This photo, taken on July 28, 2020, shows health workers guiding arrivals at Incheon International Airport in Incheon. (Yonhap)

Of the 34 newly reported imported cases, 21 were detected at quarantine checkpoints at ports and airports. By country, 13 cases were from Russia, followed by the United States with eight, Uzbekistan with seven and Kazakhstan with two.

The total number of imported cases in the country is now at 2,363.

The newly identified cases are mostly tied to Russian ships docked in the southeastern port city of Busan.

Health authorities said an additional 12 sailors on the PETR1, a 7,733-ton Russia fishing vessel, have tested positive for COVID-19. The ship, which entered a Busan port on July 8, already reported 32 virus-infected crew members last week.

The number of cases tied to seafarers on Russia-flagged ships has now surpassed 90, with one case also being reported in Incheon, just west of Seoul.

To prevent further virus infections coming in from Russia, health authorities said starting Monday, Russian sailors will be also required to submit certificates proving they tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

South Korea currently enforces such virus-prevention measures on foreign arrivals from six countries -- Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and Uzbekistan -- that are classified as high-risk nations.

In regard to the quarantining of newly arrived foreigners, local police said they apprehended three Vietnamese nationals who fled from a self-isolation facility earlier in the week after arriving on July 20. The three, who have not tested positive for COVID-19, are set to be expelled from the country.

Health authorities said they will also thoroughly check South Korean construction workers flying in from Iraq.

An additional 70 South Korean workers will return home Friday on a chartered flight, according to Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official. Of the 293 workers who were airlifted from virus-hit Iraq last week, 77 have so far tested positive for COVID-19.

This photo, provided by the Incheon Regional Office of Oceans and Fisheries on July 29, 2020, shows a Russian cargo ship docked in a port in Incheon, west of Seoul, where one of 20 crew members tested positive for the new coronavirus. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Domestic infections also increased by a double-digit figure after marking nine cases on Monday and five cases on Tuesday.

Of the 14 local transmissions, 13 were from the greater Seoul area -- seven in Seoul, five in Gyeonggi Province and one in Incheon. The southeastern port city of Busan also reported one more COVID-19 case.

The KCDC confirmed two more cases traced to an investment firm's office in downtown Seoul, raising its tally to 12.

Local cases stemmed from virus-infected Russian sailors have reached 11, with nine of them being ship mechanics, spawning concerns of community spread in Busan.

Health authorities are staying vigilant over sporadic outbreaks during the summer vacation season as the country also lifted some infection preventive measures.

Regarding how best to respond to infectious diseases going forward, a local medical expert said in a news conference that the country must upgrade its hospital infrastructure more evenly.

Seoul National University College of Medicine professor Kim Yoon said local data showed areas with relatively inadequate medical infrastructure reported higher fatality rates. He proposed building more general hospitals in such areas, even if it makes no immediate market sense.

"There is a need to approach hospital building in terms of basic public services," he said.

South Korea gave the go-ahead to all church gatherings on Friday, and it also allowed people to attend sports events on a limited basis.

The country reported no additional deaths, keeping the death toll at 300, according to the KCDC, with the mortality rate reaching at 2.11 percent.

The number of patients fully cured of the virus reached 13,069, up 62 from the previous day, while 882 are currently under treatment, down 14 from a day earlier.

South Korea has carried out 1,547,307 tests since Jan. 3.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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