Daily infections surpass 60 for three days in a row
Korea saw more than 60 new cases of Covid-19 daily for three days in a row for the first in three months.
The number of new daily infections was in the 50s but surpassed 60 on Friday with 63 additional cases, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
A total of 63 additional cases were reported on Saturday and 61 on Sunday. The numbers for each day are tallied by the KCDC at midnight the day before.
Among the 61 cases, 18 were imported and 43 local.
The majority of the cases were in Seoul and Gwangju, each recording 16 additional cases, followed by Daejeon and Gyeonggi.
Seoul has seen a rise in infections lately due to possible clusters traced to Wangsung Church in Gwanak District, southern Seoul, and a bank in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. A congregation member, who was also part of the choir, first tested positive on June 24. As of Saturday, a total of 33 members of the church had tested positive.
After an employee of NH Bank in Gangnam tested positive on July 2, his wife, a 54-year-old woman, also tested positive on July 4. Coworkers are still undergoing epidemiological surveys.
A few cases in Gwangju were traced to a cluster at Gwangreuk Temple. After a member of the temple tested positive on June 27, there have been at least 61 cases traced to the temple as of Saturday, according to the KCDC.
Infection clusters in Daejeon have been traced to three companies whose salespeople visited homes in Daejeon, giving rise to a total of 55 cases in Daejeon, eight in Seoul, 11 in South Chungcheong and three in North Jeolla as of Saturday.
In the case of Gyeonggi, a cluster traced to an apartment complex in Uijeongbu accounted for a majority of cases. After a resident tested positive earlier in the month, an additional 24 residents tested positive as of Saturday.
Korea’s Covid-19 cases peaked from late February to early March when thousands of members of a sect called Shincheonji Church of Jesus were infected, but the new daily infection count dropped to below 100 by April 2.
The infection count rose again when a cluster of infections emerged from several clubs and bars in Itaewon on May 8, but plateaued to around a dozen or so by mid-May.
Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of the KCDC, said during a press briefing on Saturday that there may be a new strain of the virus with a stronger ability to infect human cells.
“I heard from several epidemiologists recently that the speed with which the virus is spreading may have actually picked up compared to when there were mass infections in Daegu and North Gyeongsang [in February and March],” Kwon said. “A recent report published on journal Cell may be speaking to this.”
Researchers at Duke University, Sheffield University and Los Alamos National Lab published a report on July 2 in the journal Cell about a new strain of Covid-19 that's being found more often in global cases and one that may have a stronger ability to infect human cells.
As of midnight Saturday, Korea reported 13,091 cases and 283 deaths from Covid-19 infections.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]