South Korea’s daily new coronavirus disease infections stayed in the 600s for a second consecutive day on Thursday as patients at a slew of manufacturing plants and hospitals surged, prompting authorities to guard against a potential resurgence, Yonhap reports.
The country reported 621 more patients, including 590 local infections, raising the total to 85,567, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
There were six more deaths, raising the total to 1,544.
The daily caseload remained in the 300s from Saturday to Monday due mainly to less testing over the holiday that began Thursday of last week, but it bounced back to 457 on Tuesday and shot up to 621 on Wednesday, the highest in more than a month.
Health authorities said they were closely monitoring the latest uptick in new virus patients to figure out whether it is an early sign of a virus resurgence or the result of the increased testing after the holiday season.
The KDCA said a total of 1,362 were infected with the virus from 52 workplaces this year, with 63 percent of them reported in the wider Seoul area.
Authorities warned of a potential virus resurgence tied to holiday traveling, saying they could tighten the restrictions if the number of new cases continues to increase.
The health ministry said it will revise the current distancing scheme in a more sustainable mode by simplifying its five-tier virus curbs and easing the ban on multi-use facilities to mitigate its impact on small business owners.
The new rule will limit the number of people for gatherings depending on the level of new cases to give more flexibility in business operations, while giving a heavier punishment for those who violate regulations, it said.
While the government earlier planned to adopt the new measures next month, it will decide on the schedule depending on the outbreaks over the next two weeks.
Currently, the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the nation’s 52 million population, is under Level 2 distancing – the third highest in a five-tier system – and other areas are at Level 1.5.
The adjustment allows restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, nightclubs and bars in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi province to remain open for an hour longer until 10:00p.m.
Of the 590 local infections, 179 were reported in Seoul and 237 in the surrounding Gyeonggi province. Incheon, 40 km west of Seoul, had 16 new patients.
Eight new patients were identified from a plastic factory in Namyangju, located around 20 kilometers east of Seoul, raising the total to 122, the KDCA said.
Among them were 110 foreign workers from 17 nations, who were living in the company’s dormitory, it said.
A boiler factory in Asan, about 100 kilometers south of Seoul, added 21 new patients to reach a total of 135.
Soonchunhyang University Hospital reported 31 new patients to raise the total to 171.
The KDCA said 31 were from abroad, with 11 from the United States, three from Jordan, and two each from Indonesia, the Philippines, Hungary and Japan.
The number of seriously or critically ill patients was 161, down eight from the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 75,896, up 536 from a day earlier.