South Korea continues to grapple with sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks linked to small gatherings at churches, cafes and restaurants as the country reported 54 new infections Wednesday.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 of the new cases were locally transmitted -- 13 in Seoul, 19 in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and three in Busan. The remaining 19 were imported. The total caseload rose to 14,714.
Churches remain major routes for the spread of the coronavirus.
A total of 34 people tested positive for the virus in connection with a church in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, with the latest patient found to have worked at Namdaemun traditional market. A total of 17 people infected with the virus were connected to a church in Gimpo, Gyeeongi Province, according to the KCDC.
Seven people running or working at Lotteria fast food chains were confirmed to have been infected as of Wednesday. They had a gathering with 19 people in attendance, with the initial patient having tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday. They did not properly wear masks during their gathering, according to the KCDC.
Meanwhile, the government was cautious about Russia’s claim that it had developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus
On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin vouched for safety of the vaccine, dubbed “Sputnik” after the pioneering 1950s Soviet satellite, saying one of his own daughters had received the inoculation.
“We have very limited information about the vaccine Russia said had developed,” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said at a briefing Wednesday. “We are only obtaining basic data about the safety of the vaccine in order to decide on whether to introduce the vaccine to Korea.”
Due to a rise in locally transmitted COVID-19 infections, the portion of imported cases from overseas has decreased for the past two weeks, at 49.2 percent. The transmission routes for 11.4 percent of cases were unidentified during the period, according to the KCDC.
Of Wednesday’s 19 imported cases, eight were detected during the quarantine screening process at the border, while the rest were identified while under mandatory self-quarantine in Korea. Thirteen of them were Korean nationals.
By country, 11 were from Asia – eight from Uzbekistan, one from Indonesia, one from Saudi Arabia, one from Afghanistan – and four from the Americas -- three from the United States and one from Ecuador. Four were from Africa – one from Morocco, one from Nigeria, one from Sudan and one from Senegal.
So far, 13,786 people, or 93.69 percent, have been released from quarantine upon making full recoveries, up 57 from a day earlier. Some 623 people are receiving medical treatment under quarantine. Fifteen people remain in serious or critical condition.
The number of deaths stays unchanged at 305, with the overall fatality rate at 2.07 percent -- 2.41 percent for men and 1.79 percent for women -- as of Wednesday. The fatality rate is 25.12 percent for those in their 80s or over and 9.34 percent for those in their 70s.
The country has carried out 1,646,652 tests since Jan. 3, with 17,375 people awaiting results as of Wednesday.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)