The Korea Herald


S. Korea reports 323 new COVID-19 cases

Social distancing strengthened in Greater Seoul starting Sunday

By Ahn Sung-mi

Published : Aug. 29, 2020 - 12:04

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

South Korea’s daily tally of new COVID-19 cases exceeded 300 for the fourth consecutive day Saturday, with sporadic cluster infections in the Seoul metropolitan area continuing to raise alert. 

The country reported 323 new virus cases Saturday -- 308 locally transmitted and 15 imported from overseas -- putting the total caseload at 19,400, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five more people died of the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 321. The country’s virus fatality rate stands at 1.65 percent. 

Saturday’s tally, which counts cases up to midnight Friday, marks a drop from 371 cases announced Friday and 441 Thursday. The daily number stayed above 300 for four consecutive days and in the triple digits for more than two weeks. 

Since Aug.14, a combined 4,630 cases have been reported here, with the resurgence mostly traced to a conservative church in northern Seoul and an anti-government rally on Aug. 15 in central Seoul. While the daily tally is still lower than late February when cases peaked at 909 in one day due to a mass virus breakout among the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province, health authorities warned the country is on the brink of a nationwide outbreak, as the cases are centered on the densely populated capital area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million population. 

Of the new cases, the overwhelming majority were reported in Greater Seoul – 125 in Seoul, 104 in neighboring Gyeonggi Province and 20 in Incheon. 

Outside the Seoul metropolitan area, 16 were reported in Gwangju, 12 in South Gyeongsang Province, nine in South Jeolla Province, eight in South Chungcheong Province, six each in Busan, Daegu and North Chungcheong Province and four in Daejeon, with one each in North Gyeongsang Province and Jeju Island and five detected at quarantine checkpoints at airports and harbors. 

The number of cases traced to the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, which is at the center of the recent surge of infections, stood at 978 as of Friday. The church-linked cases were reported in connection to at least 25 locations, with 66 cases reported in nine different provinces and municipalities outside Greater Seoul, including at medical facilities, nursing homes and schools.
The number of cases traced to the Aug. 15 rally stands now at 294, spread over 13 provinces and municipalities across the country. 

Other clusters include 33 cases reported at an apartment complex in Guro-gu, western Seoul, 66 from a door-to-door sales company in Gwanak-gu, 17 at another church in Nowon-gu and 14 at a table tennis club in the southeastern city of Gwangju. 

With the infection rate seeing no signs of slowing down, the government decided to extend Level 2 social distancing for one more week until Sept. 6 in the Greater Seoul area, with stricter rules imposed starting Sunday, constituting a de facto “Level 2.5” on the three-tier system. 

Under the new restrictions, restaurants, cafes and bakeries in Greater Seoul -- comprising Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province -- can serve customers in-person until 9 p.m. From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. only takeout and delivery are allowed. 

For franchise coffee chains, only takeout and delivery are allowed regardless of operating hours, as recent reported cluster infections have been tied to coffeehouses. 

By Ahn Sung-mi (