|Health officials carry out COVID-19 testing on citizens at a makeshift facility erected in Namdaemun Market, central Seoul, Monday, following an outbreak of infections at the marketplace. / Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
COVID-19 infections traced to a church have spread to Namdaemun Market, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Seoul, the health authorities said Monday. This is renewing concerns over mass infections while the number of new cases here has hovered between 20 and 43 a day, since the beginning of the month.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the country added 28 new cases Sunday, bringing the total caseload to 14,626.
Among the 28, 17 were locally transmitted infections, including 11 reported in the densely populated capital, and five in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province.
At least nine were tied to the Namdaemun Market.
The authorities confirmed that the first confirmed case in the marketplace was a person who worked there and a member of a church in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, which reported seven additional patients that raised the total infections tied to the church to 31 as of noon Monday.
After the confirmation of the first infection in the marketplace Friday, the KCDC carried out coronavirus testing on 20 merchants who worked on the same floor. Seven tested positive.
One of the family members of the first patient was also confirmed to have COVID-19.
The authorities are bracing for more patients tied to the marketplace as they are still conducting testing on people who came into contact with those infected.
Another church in Goyang added one more infection, raising its related caseload to 21.
"We are deeply worried about the church cases as infections have spread to large-sized marketplaces, day care centers and door-to-door sales," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official in charge of containment measures, said during a media briefing.
"We once again ask churches to comply with the government's COVID-19 guidelines such as wearing face masks and not offering group meals."
Yoon noted that the government will, if necessary, enhance guidelines on large marketplaces once an epidemiological investigation into the cases linked to Namdaemun Market is completed.
Meanwhile, imported cases slightly increased to 11, Sunday, after having fallen to six, Saturday. Before this, cases coming from overseas had been in double digits for more than 40 consecutive days.
Among the 11 imported infections, six were detected at airports or seaports, while five tested positive during their 14-day self-quarantine period.
By country, three cases came from the United States, followed by two from the Philippines and two from Bangladesh. Four others each came from Russia, Bangladesh, Finland and Burkina Faso.
"The number of new daily imported cases has stood at 21.4 on average for the past two weeks, down from 31.4 a month ago," Yoon said. "The government will continue to monitor the situation involving imported cases and will take appropriate measures."