New cases of COVID-19 fell below 50 for the second day in a row in South Korea on Tuesday, but health authorities warned against easing up on the fight to stop the spread of the infectious disease.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 47 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 10,331. There were also 47 confirmed cases reported on Monday, marking a continued decline since a peak of infections in late February and early March. The death toll rose by six to 192.
While calling the falling case numbers “a small achievement that we can be proud of,” senior health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho cautioned against complacency.
“We are seeing a decrease in the number of on-day confirmed cases, but we cannot let our guards down as we still have many risk factors,” he said at a press briefing. “If we ease ourselves by looking at the numbers from yesterday and today, we will be witnessing a surge in the number of confirmed cases.”
Yoon expressed concern about imported cases as well as potential cluster infections around nightclubs, where he said young people have started gathering again, as well as hospitals and churches.
The official said that the government would crack down with stricter measures against clubs, bars and other nightlife venues that violate guidelines on social distancing.
Yoon also urged citizens to abide by the government’s enhanced social distancing drive, which was extended until April 19.
Under the campaign, South Korea has forced all major public facilities, including schools and private gyms, to remain closed, while advising people to avoid public gatherings, including church services.
Yoon said that the government would provide smaller churches, some of which have continued to hold services despite the public health advisory, with technology and devices to enable livestreaming.
Schools, which have had the start of their new semester delayed since March 2 due to the coronavirus outbreak, are slated to resume this week with online classes.
The rollout will take place in stages, some high school and middle school students starting classes on April 9, and additional grades joining over the next two weeks. Kindergartens will remain closed.
While health officials are stressing vigilance, South Korea continues to receive positive attention around the world for its approach to the pandemic, which has relied on early and widespread testing, extensive tracing of infected patients’ contacts and government transparency.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke with South Korean President Moon Jae-in by telephone on Monday and “thanked him for leadership and South Korea’s openness in sharing its COVID-19 control measures,” he wrote on Twitter.
“South Korea is a champion of the comprehensive approach to response and control to this pandemic,” he wrote.
The WHO director-general also invited Moon to deliver a keynote speech at the World Health Assembly, which will be held via videoconferencing in May, the presidential Blue House announced on Monday.