South Korea virus cases maintain downward trend

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SEOUL: South Korea has reported 18 new cases of the coronavirus, its lowest daily jump since February 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 Centers 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.



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