SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea has reported 42 new infections from COVID-19 as the infections are steadily increasing in the larger capital area, forcing authorities to consider stricter social restrictions.
Figures announced Monday by the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the national workload to 12,757, including 282 deaths.
Twenty-four of the new cases were reported from the capital city of Seoul and the nearby metropolitan areas, which have been at the center of a virus flare-up since late May. At least 12 of the new cases related to international arrivals, as the virus continues to strengthen its position elsewhere in the world.
South Korea reported hundreds of new cases each day in late February and early March following a major wave around the southeastern city of Daegu, where the majority of infections were linked to a single ecclesiastical congregation of thousands.
But while health authorities have used aggressive testing and contact tracking to stem the outbreak in that region, they have a much harder time following recent broadcasts in the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of the 51 million people live in the country. As people increasingly venture out in public, new clusters are tied to different places.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo announced during a briefing on Sunday afternoon that the government is willing to take stronger social distance measures if the epidemic continues to grow. He said that the most powerful measures – including banning all gatherings of more than ten people, closing schools, quitting professional sports, and restricting activities of non-essential companies – will be maintained as the daily increase in infections increases then doubles twice over a one week period.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
– Philippine officials say that authorities in a central village may face criminal or administrative complaints for allowing street parade and dancing despite a strict coronavirus shutdown. Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella said officials of the village of Basak have been ordered to explain why the religious festival in honor of Saint John the Baptist was held on Saturday despite a ban on public gatherings. Performers in native clothes and face masks danced during the night procession, which attracted a large crowd. While the Philippines has eased quarantine restrictions in most regions, the city of Cebu has been severely shut down following a spike in infections. The Philippines has more than 35,000 virus cases, including 1,244 deaths.
– Health authorities use a saliva test while they are working on a coronavirus outbreak in Australia’s second largest city. The test appears to be less accurate than the nasal swab, but is a more comfortable option. Brett Sutton, Victoria State Chief Health Officer, said the situation in Melbourne was “a real challenge now” in part because the better situation elsewhere in Australia made it harder to tell people to stay vigilant. Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said on Monday that 75 people had tested positive in the state in the past 24 hours. She said the Sunday saliva test was first used in a hotspot in suburban Melbourne. The saliva tests in study were only 87% as accurate as the nasal smear because saliva contained fewer viruses than the throat, said Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, who developed the saliva test used.
– China reported a further decline in new cases, with only 12. Seven of them were locally distributed in Beijing, where nearly 8.3 million people have been tested in recent weeks. The number of new cases in the city was half as low as the day before, the National Health Commission reported. Beijing temporarily closed a huge food wholesale market where the virus spread widely earlier this month, closed schools and closed a number of neighborhoods. Anyone leaving Beijing must have obtained a negative virus test result within the past seven days.
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