Coronavirus: South Korea’s New Cases at Lowest Level Since February Peak
South Korea has reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases since infection rates peaked one month ago, fuelling hope Asia’s worst outbreak outside China may be abating.
Sixty four new cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 8,961 with 111 deaths.
However, health officials warn against complacency, saying South Korea still faces a long war against the infection.
Europe is currently at the center of the pandemic.
On March 22, Italy reported 651 new deaths, bringing the total there to 5,476, while Spain added another 462 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 2,182.
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The expectation that the battle against the virus will be a long one was reinforced by news from Japan that its prime minister has admitted for the first time that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be postponed.
Nearly 20,000 people are tested every day for coronavirus in South Korea, more people per capita than anywhere else in the world.
South Korea has created a network of public and private laboratories and provides dozens of drive-through centers where people with symptoms can check their health status.
The country developed its approach after an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015, when 36 people died in South Korea, which had the second-largest number of MERS cases after Saudi Arabia.
MERS forced South Korea to reassess its approach to infectious diseases and its Centers for Disease Control set up a special department to prepare for the worst, a move which appears to have paid off.
Laws on managing and publicly sharing information on patients with infectious diseases changed significantly after MERS and could be seen in action this year when the government used phone alerts to tell people if they were in the vicinity of a patient.
This weekend, the South Korean government stepped up preventative action by sending out emergency alerts urging people to stay away from places which encourage mass gatherings such as churches, karaoke rooms, nightclubs and gyms.
The government also asked religious leaders to check the temperature of followers and keep them at least 6ft apart during any services they deemed necessary.
A number of churches in South Korea are now facing legal action after violating the guidelines.
South Korea has seen two waves of infections, Yonhap news agency reports, the first beginning on January 20 with the first confirmed case, and the second with mass infections among a religious group.
Now there are fears that imported cases could fuel a third wave.
The government plans to install around 20 phone booth-style test facilities inside Incheon Airport to speed up the process of testing all arrivals from Europe.
The new entry procedures started on March 22. So far, 152 people have arrived in South Korea showing symptoms of the virus and they are awaiting their test results.