New virus cases reach two-week high as concerns growKorea's daily new virus cases have hit a two-week high, as infections outside the Seoul metropolitan area show a sustained increase and raise concerns that the country's epidemic may be again trending upward.
The country Thursday added 63 cases, including 52 local infections, raising the total caseload to 12,967, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on Friday morning.
The tally marked the highest amount since 67 cases were reported on June 20, and a rise from the 54 reported a day earlier.
It was the first time the number of local infections rose above 50 since June 18.
Of the locally transmitted infections, six cases were newly identified in Gwangju, where double-digit numbers of new virus cases had been reported for the previous two days.
Most of the cases in the city have been traced to a Buddhist temple there. The number of cases linked to the facility rose by eight to reach 57.
The greater Seoul area reported 12 new cases, with the surrounding Gyeonggi adding 16 new infections.
A total of 21 virus cases have been connected to an apartment facility in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi, up seven from a day earlier.
Daegu, once the hotbed of the country's virus outbreak, added 13 new cases. The city accounts for more than half of the country's Covid-19 cases here, due to thousands of virus infections traced to a religious sect in the city.
It marked the first time for Daegu to post a double-digit daily increase in patients for around three months. The latest spike was attributable to cluster infections from a theater school.
Eleven Covid-19 patients were linked to the school. Health authorities said they are currently carrying out tests on around 1,500 students and teachers from four high schools where the patients were enrolled.
Daejeon also reported four more infections.
Earlier this week, two elementary students in Daejeon also tested positive after coming in contact with a peer.
Health authorities said one of the two students were very likely infected at the school. If confirmed, it would mark the first case of the virus being transmitted at a school in Korea.
Schools were given the full go-ahead to hold in-person classes in June, but some of them were forced to shut down due to sporadic cluster infections. The country normally begins a new semester in March.
No further secondary infections from schools have been reported so far, but parents are increasingly concerned about the safety of their children. The number of schools closed temporarily due to the coronavirus outbreak rose to 523 nationwide Friday.
Over the past two months, densely populated Seoul and the surrounding area, which together house around half of the country's 51 million people, accounted for most of the newly added cases here.
The trend has prodded health authorities to focus on curbing the spread of the virus in the greater Seoul area. Last month, they decided to indefinitely apply toughened infection prevention measures in the region amid the growing number of patients from clubs and door-to-door businesses.
With other major cities reporting new cluster infections, health authorities are increasingly under pressure to consider readopting the scheme elsewhere.
"There has been a series of small cluster infections nationwide, which put great strain on provincial governments and health authorities," Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing, pointing out that the country is facing a "grave" situation.
Kim also expressed concerns that elderly people have been particularly affected by the latest spike in the number of new cases in Gwangju.
Health authorities said it is worrisome that around 12 percent of the newly added patients over the past two weeks had unknown infection routes.
The country reported no additional deaths, with the death toll staying at 282. The fatality rate was 2.17 percent.
The number of new imported cases reached 11, marking a double-digit rise for the eighth consecutive day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 11,759, up 75 from the previous day. This indicates that more than 90 percent of the Covid-19 patients here have been cured.
The country has carried out 1,307,761 tests since Jan. 3.