Korea’s new Covid-19 cases have tapered off to around 100 these days owing to the strengthened social distancing scheme. However, the public health authorities remained on high alert as the number of cluster infections increased to 52 in the past two weeks, up five times from early August.
The nation reported 136 new virus cases, including 120 local infections, raising the cumulative caseload to 21,432 as of midnight Monday, the Korea Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention said.
Five more people died of Covid-19, rapidly increasing the death toll to 341, reflecting the large share of seriously ill patients among the newly confirmed cases.
An additional 339 fully cured people were discharged from quarantine, increasing the total to 16,636. The country has tested 2,066,078 people since Jan. 3.
Of the 120 locally transmitted cases, 98 occurred in the greater Seoul area, including Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. Health officials also confirmed additional infections in other municipalities and provinces, with Gwangju reporting 12 new cases, followed by four in Daejeon, three in Ulsan, and one in Busan, Sejong, and North Chungcheong Province.
The number of infections tied to Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul has increased to 1,163 as of Monday, and infections related to the anti-government rallies in central Seoul on Aug. 15 have climbed to 532.
Cases related to the church, led by an ultra-right pastor Jun Kwang-hoon, have emerged as the second-largest cluster infection in the country following another church - the minor religious sect of Shincheonji, which recorded the single largest cluster infection here of more than 5,000 virus cases in Daegu in late February and early March.
The authorities also confirmed a series of infections at a religious facility in Nowon-gu (45) and a telemarketing call center in Gangdong-gu (18), Seoul, a restaurant in Gwangju (11), and an online hiking cafe meeting (five).
"In addition to religious facilities, infections occur in multiuse facilities such as medical and nursing institutions, indoor sports centers, and workplaces," Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip said during a daily task force meeting. "Particular attention is needed as group infections are resurging through door-to-door sales targeting the elderly."
As the Covid-19 virus is has a higher fatality among older people, they should refrain from visiting closed, intimate, or dense facilities as much as possible, Kim added.
"In the case of workplaces where workers are concentrated, individuals can spark mass infections," Kim said. "The government urges call centers and logistics warehouses to recheck basic quarantine rules, such as wearing masks, periodic ventilation, and distancing workers, are well followed."
The participants in the daily meeting also checked the implementation of quarantine measures at restaurants.
"As a result of checking 210,000 restaurants and cafes after the reinforced stage-two distancing measures in the metropolitan area, we found the quarantine regulations were faithfully followed except for a few places," Kim said. "We sincerely thank owners for their active participation, and look forward to their continued efforts to keep up the quarantine guideline."
Health officials remain vigilant against a potential rebound in virus cases due to people's movements during the upcoming Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) holiday.
This year's Chuseok holiday runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4. The Korean autumn harvest celebration is one of the country's biggest traditional holidays and serves as a chance for family members to visit their hometowns.
Monday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun asked people to skip visiting parents during the traditional family reunion season and stay home this year. The government, which designated Aug. 17 as a temporary holiday to spark dormant consumption and still suffers from its aftereffects, should not repeat the mistake, officials said.
Korea reported 16 imported cases. Four patients were from Turkey and India, three from Indonesia, and one from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Qatar, and Senegal.