The epicenters of cluster infections in Korea have recently shifted to the nation’s western regions, unlike months ago, when the southeastern city of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province were hot spots.
On Wednesday, the nation reported 51 new Covid-19 cases, including 36 local infections, raising the total to 12,850.
Cluster infections in the Seoul metro region continued. At the same time, Gwangju, a southwestern city, confirmed 12 new cases, making the first double-digit rise in 85 days among regions outside the greater Seoul area.
Daejeon, some 160 km south of Seoul, reported the first on-campus infection, amplifying health officials’ concerns about mass infections. Two fifth-graders in Daejeon have tested positive for the virus after coming into close contact with a classmate, who tested positive for the virus on Monday.
Seventy-six more people recovered, pushing the number of cured patients to 11,613, with 955 people receiving treatment. The nation reported no additional deaths keeping the death toll at 282. It has tested 1,285,231 suspected patients since Jan. 3.
Imported cases also maintained a double-digit rise for the sixth straight day.
In the capital city and its vicinity, cluster infections traced to small religious gatherings continued to wreak havoc on the government’s effort to contain the virus's spread. New virus cases linked to a large Protestant church in southwestern Seoul reached 31 as of Tuesday, while those related to a church in Anyang, south of Seoul, reached 23. Health officials have also confirmed 14 cases linked to a Buddhist temple in Gwangju.
As the cases continue, the government is pondering the possibility of designating religious institutions as high-risk facilities again.
Last month, the government initially considered designating churches as a high-risk facility, as cases traced to major churches in Seoul have been a significant source of the newly confirmed cases, but decided to watch the situations for the time being.
“If the churches and temples do not follow infection prevention guidelines properly and infection continues, the government will have to name religious facilities as high-risk facilities and enforce strong restrictions,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during the daily task force meeting.
Be sure to follow the precautions in the worship service or large-scale meetings. Please refrain from religious activities that cause close contacts, such as small gatherings and retreats, Chung added.
The existing high-risk facilities have started implementing the electronic entry and exit system based on quick response (QR) code for visitors from Wednesday.
Quarantine officials expect that the QR access list will help them conduct epidemiological investigations more efficiently. Facilities that must use the electronic access-list include pubs, karaoke rooms, indoor sports centers, and concert halls.
Those that do not use the QR code will be denied entry in such facilities. In contrast, owners of high-risk facilities will face a fine if they do not follow the new procedure.