South Korea reported 47 new cases of the Chinese coronavirus Monday, the fewest daily infections since late February.
The total of 47 cases on Sunday was down from 81 cases the previous day, bringing the country’s total number of infections to 10,284. Health authorities have reported less than 100 daily cases for the past three weeks, although they still remain on high alert over fears of new cases from overseas or an uptick due to lack of social distancing in churches, hospitals, and nursing homes.
The nationwide death toll from the virus now stands at 186, an impressively low figure given the country’s population of 51.5 million. Over 130 people confirmed their full recovery on Sunday, raising the total number of recoveries to 6,598, according to figures from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The KCDC confirmed that some of the new cases were in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, which recorded 13 and two new cases respectively. Together, the two regions represent more than 80 percent of the country’s total number of infections.
On Saturday, the South Korean government announced that it would extend its social distancing campaign by a further two weeks. It was originally scheduled to end on Monday, but Health Minister Park Neung-hoo argued it needed to err on the side of caution.
“Our goal is to be able to control infections in a way that our health and medical system, including personnel and sickbeds, can handle them at usual levels,” Park told a press briefing this weekend. “If the number goes down to 50 or lower, stable treatment of the patients including the critically ill will be possible without much pressure on the system.”
Park added that many people were beginning to ignore social distancing measures and had started venturing out amid isolation fatigue and the improvement of the weather.
“We are well aware that many citizens are feeling exhausted and lethargic under continued social distancing. But if we get loose, the strenuous efforts that the government and the people have made so far might come to nothing,” Park continued. “We cannot maintain social distancing forever. But it is the most effective measure to help protect others and yourself.”
South Korea has won praise for its handling of the coronavirus, which broke out late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, mainly as a result of its widespread testing that epidemiologists have said helped “flatten the curve.” As of Monday, the government had successfully tested almost half a million people for the virus.