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(LEAD) S. Korea reports 166 new virus cases as transmissions spread in greater Seoul area

10:05 August 15, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Aug. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea saw new COVID-19 virus cases reach the triple digits for the second day in a row Saturday, as sporadic local infections in the greater Seoul area piled up again ahead of the three-day weekend holiday.

The country's new daily coronavirus cases reached 166 as of midnight Friday, raising the total caseload to 15,039, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). Of the new cases, 155 were local infections.

New daily infections reached triple digits for the second straight day, following 138 new cases reported as of 10 p.m. Friday.

The new case number was the largest since March 11, when the country reported 242 new daily infections.

Public officials disinfect a church in Seoul's Seongbuk Ward on Aug. 14, 2020, following the detection of a cluster of new coronavirus infections at the church. (Yonhap)

The number of new cases has shown a dramatic increase during the week, with new daily confirmed cases nearly doubling from 28 on Monday to 54 reported on Wednesday, with people testing positive for the virus reaching triple digits Friday.

The KCDC has warned that the greater Seoul area is teetering on the brink of another spike in virus cases and that the easing of social distancing guidance may be rolled back if the upward trend continues.

Of the new locally transmitted cases, 72 were reported in Seoul and 67 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province.

Sporadic cluster infections have shown no signs of a let-up, with most cases traced to churches in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.

Infections tied to a church in Yongin, south of Seoul, reached 72 as of noon Friday, up 60 from the previous day.

Cases linked to a church in northern Seoul rose by 14 to 19. The Seoul metropolitan government ordered the temporary shutdown of the church, with health authorities conducting virus tests on 1,897 people.

It was also reported that 31 residents in a town in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi Province, were also infected with COVID-19.

On Friday, the government said it was considering strengthening the infection preventive measures in Seoul and neighboring areas by one notch to Level 2.

In June, South Korea adopted a three-tier social distancing scheme, under which the country is currently at Level 1 distancing measures. Level 2 could be applied if daily infections exceed 50 for 14 straight days but remain under 100.

South Korea, meanwhile, reported no additional fatalities, keeping the death toll at 305. The fatality rate was 2.03 percent.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 13,901, up 38 from the previous day.

Students line up to take coronavirus tests at a screening center in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Aug. 13, 2020, after a middle school student in the city tested positive for COVID-19. (Yonhap)



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