Korea's new virus cases rose above 60 on Thursday, as imported infections continue to wreak havoc on health officials’ efforts to contain Covid-19.
The nation confirmed 61 new coronavirus patients, including 47 imported one, pushing up the total to 13,612 as of midnight Wednesday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The number of people discharged from quarantine climbed to 12,396, up 48 from Tuesday.
Two additional virus-linked deaths occurred, increasing the death toll to 291. Korea has tested 1,441,348 suspected patients since Jan. 3. Among them, 1,404,332 people tested negative with the other 21,845 awaiting results.
The tally released Thursday is the second time this week that the daily virus cases went above 60 after health officials confirmed 62 new infections on Monday. Imported cases’ growth has become a new source of concern for the public health authorities as the nation recorded a double-digit number of foreign inflows for the 21st consecutive day since June 26.
The accumulated number of imported cases has reached 1,966, accounting for about 14 percent of all COVID-19 infections. Of the 47 imported cases on Wednesday, 20 were detected at port and airport checkpoints. Officials also said a similar number of people who tested positive were Korean workers returning from a construction worksite in Iraq.
Health officials say the level of foreign inflows will determine whether Korea will undergo a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
To stem the rise of imported cases, the government has decided to add two more countries for its new anti-coronavirus measure for travelers arriving from high-risk nations. The countries have not been specified due to diplomatic reasons.
The nation has designated four high-risk nations -- Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – requiring travelers coming from such countries to submit a certificate showing they tested negative for the virus.
In contrast, local infections have somewhat stabilized recently.
Health officials reported 11 new cases in the greater Seoul area, which includes the western port city of Incheon and surrounding Gyeonggi Province, two instances in Daegu, and one case each in Gwangju, Daejeon, and Gangwon Province.
The government attributed the recent decline in community spreads to citizens abiding by anti-virus guidelines, including wearing masks.
"Although Covid-19 confirmed patients are rapidly increasing worldwide, Korea has entered a stable phase regarding local infections," Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said Thursday.
Park pointed out that the constant use of face-masks was one of the main reasons for local infections' slowdown.
"Unlike other countries such as the United States and Europe, Korea could suppress sporadic group infections and reduce further outbreaks as most of our citizens were wearing masks and adhered prevention measures such as social distancing," Park said.