S Korea reports 97 new coronavirus cases

SEOUL (AP) — South Korea confirmed 97 new cases of the coronavirus, a modest uptick from the daily levels reported last week, just as officials ease social distancing restrictions after concluding that transmissions slowed following a resurgence in mid-August.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency yesterday brought the national caseload to 24,703, including 433 deaths. Sixty-three of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers struggled to track infections tied to various places and groups, including hospitals, schools, workers and troops.

Twenty-nine of the new cases were linked to international arrivals, including 13 passengers from Nepal, most of whom who came to South Korea for a Korean language programme.

South Korea relaxed its social distancing guidelines beginning yesterday, allowing high-risk businesses to open as long as they employ preventive measures, such as requiring masks and keeping lists of visitors.

Spectators will also be re-allowed in professional sports, although teams will be initially allowed to only sell 30 per cent of their seats in stadiums.

Meanwhile, India reported 66,732 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving the

country’s overall tally to 7.1 million. The Health Ministry yesterday also reported 816 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 109,150. India is seeing fewer new daily cases of the virus since mid-September when the daily infections touched a record high of 97,894 cases. It is averaging more than 70,000 cases daily so far this month.

Health experts warned that congregations during major festivals later this month and in November have the potential for the virus to spread. They also caution that coming winter months are expected to aggravate respiratory ailments.

People cross a road in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP