South Korea reports zero local infections for first time in 72 days

The departure hall of Gimpo International Airport in Seoul is packed with travelers on April 30, 2020, the first day of a long holiday that runs through May 5. (Yonhap)

The departure hall of Gimpo International Airport in Seoul is packed with travelers on April 30, 2020, the first day of a long holiday that runs through May 5. (Yonhap)

SEOUL: South Korea marked the first time in 72 days that local infections have fallen to zero.

The four cases of the new coronavirus reported on Thursday were all imported ones and brought the total to 10,765.

It was the first time since February 18 that no locally infected cases have occurred. It also marked the lowest daily increase in more than two months, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

South Korea reported its first coronavirus case, a Chinese person, on January 20. The daily total peaked on February 29 at 909.

Despite the signs of a slowdown, local health authorities remain on the alert over the ongoing holiday, when people are expected to make trips locally, which could potentially lead to cluster infections.

Cluster infections take up more than 80 percent of the total reported cases here.

The nation’s death toll from COVID-19 rose by one to 247.

The overall fatality rate reached 2.29 percent. The figure, however, reached 24.3 percent for patients in their 80s and above.

So far, no deaths have been reported from patients aged 29 and below.

In total, 9,059 people in South Korea have recovered from the virus, up 137 from a day earlier.

The figures indicate nearly 85 percent of COVID-19 patients in the country have been cured.

Health authorities said the country reported no infections from this month’s general elections, where more than 29 million voters showed up at polling stations nationwide wearing face masks.

“We request people to abide by precautionary measures over the holiday as they did on the election day,” Yoon Tae-ho, a health ministry official, said at a press briefing.

South Korea plans to help undocumented migrant workers and other vulnerable people receive necessary medical services amid rising concerns over blind spots in the country’s quarantine efforts.

The rising number of imported cases is still a concern for South Korea. All four cases announced Thursday were imported, raising the country’s total number of such cases to 1,065. More than 90 percent of the patients were South Korean nationals.

Daegu, the nation’s worst virus-hit region located 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, added no new cases. The city accounts for 64 percent of the nation’s total COVID-19 cases.

The country with a population of around 50 million has carried out tests on 619,881 people since Jan. 3, including 5,684 a day earlier. South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case on Jan. 20.

The number of patients who retested positive after being discharged from quarantine came to 305.

Health authorities said earlier they believe such patients tested positive again due to the remains of the virus that are deemed not to be contagious, indicating neither “reactivation” nor “reinfection” of the virus in people.

The country, however, said it will continue to carry out studies on the relapse cases as the number of such cases continues to grow.

If the number of new infections continues to plateau by the end of the holiday, South Korea plans to ease its social distancing drive.

The country eventually plans to move on to what it calls “everyday life quarantine,” which means schools and workplaces will mostly return to their normal routines with precautions.

Health officials, however, earlier said they are pessimistic that things will fully go back to the days before the pandemic amid looming concerns over a second wave of infections later this year.

South Korea said it will find out whether the country has developed herd immunity against the COVID-19 virus through blood samples gathered through an annual nationwide health examination survey on a selected number of people.


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