S. Korea to step up quarantine on arrivals from 5 European countries
SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Some 102 people linked to call center in Seoul test positive for coronavirus.
South Korea said Thursday that those arriving in the country after visiting five European countries, including Germany, will face stepped-up quarantine measures starting next week, as the government grapples with the largest-yet cluster infections of novel coronavirus in the capital.
South Korea’s coronavirus cases climbed by 114 to 7,869 as of midnight Wednesday, the lowest daily increase in nearly three weeks, according to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll rose by seven to 67.
Health authorities said they will continue to employ two-way approaches -- blocking community spread and controlling the inflow of COVID-19 from abroad -- as the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a pandemic.
Those who enter Korea from five European countries -- France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Netherlands -- will be required to get fever checks and have their contacts confirmed before entering the country. Upon entry, they will be required to download a smartphone app and inform authorities of their health condition over a 14-day period.
The move came after a 28-year-old man tested positive for the virus upon his return to Korea on Sunday after visiting London and Paris between Feb. 27 and Saturday. The case follows another man infected with the virus after traveling across Europe for a month.
Such requirements have been applied to people who have visited mainland China, Macao, Hong Kong, Iran and Italy.
The number of coronavirus cases linked to a call center in southwestern Seoul has reached 102, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said at a briefing Thursday, leading the municipality to designate the affected building and nearby areas as a “special support zone for contagious diseases.”
Of the cases, 71 were residents in Seoul, 17 in Incheon and 14 in Gyeonggi Province, sparking fears about community spread of the virus in the capital and surrounding cities, which is home to 26 million people, about half of the country’s population.
The majority of the patients are among the 207 people who were working at the call center on the 11th floor of a 19-story building in Guro-gu, southeastern Seoul. The tests and an epidemiological study on some 553 employees on other floors is underway.
One of the employees on the ninth floor was confirmed to be infected with the virus Thursday, highlighting concerns about the spread to residents in the 19-floor building located nearby one of the capital’s transport hubs, Sindorim Station.
Guidelines for businesses with packed environments -- such as call centers, religious facilities, education institutes, fitness centers and nightclubs -- were distributed by health authorities on Thursday to prevent further mass coronavirus infections.
Korea, which had reported daily increases of 500 or more for the past two weeks, has seen a slowing trend in new cases this week, especially in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, as the government has nearly finished testing followers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus for the virus. The fringe religious sect is linked to nearly 60 percent of the country’s total cases.
Government officials, however, have warned against attaching significance to the daily infection figures.
Of the 114 new cases across the country confirmed Thursday, 19 new cases were reported in Seoul and three in Gyeonggi Province, with most of those linked to the call center in southwestern Seoul.
The Government Complex in Sejong, which accommodates 35 ministries and agencies, reported five more cases as more officials were confirmed to be infected with the virus.
There were 73 new cases in the southeastern city of Daegu, which has been at the heart of the country’s virus outbreak, along with eight in North Gyeongsang Province, according to the data. The number of cases in the region represents about 90 percent of the country’s total.
Some 80 percent of the country’s total cases have been linked to infection clusters, nearly 70 percent of which can be traced to the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, according to the KCDC.
The Daegu Metropolitan Government conducted an administrative inspection into the office of the Shincheonji Church’s Deagu branch to secure documents and materials necessary for containment measures.
As of Thursday afternoon, 67 people, mostly those in their 60s or older and with underlying illnesses, had died from COVID-19 here, with the overall fatality rate at 0.85 percent. According to KCDC numbers, the death rate here stood at 4.83 percent for those in their 70s and 8.23 percent for those in their 80s.
A total of 7,470 people confirmed with novel coronavirus remained in quarantine, while 333 people had been released upon making full recoveries.
The number of people awaiting test results for the virus stood at 17,727. The country has so far tested 227,129 people, with 209,402 testing negative as of Wednesday midnight.
The World Health Organization has declared the worldwide outbreak of the new coronavirus a pandemic, with more than 126,000 cases reported in over 110 countries and 4,600 deaths.