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South Korea sets record COVID-19 cases as prison reports major outbreak

Of the new cases, 1,072 were locally transmitted and 25 were imported, bringing the total coronavirus infections to 49,665, with 674 COVID-19 deaths as of Saturday midnight.

By: Reuters | Seoul | Updated: December 20, 2020 9:50:56 am
South Korea COVID-19 caseloads SeoulSouth Korea's aggressive tracing and testing early in the pandemic had made the country a global success story when many nations saw soaring infections, prompting wide lockdowns. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

South Korea reported a record 1,097 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, including an outbreak in a Seoul prison that infected 185 as the country’s latest wave of COVID-19 worsens.

With daily infections over 1,000 for a fifth consecutive day, some medical experts criticised the government as being slow to introduce tighter social distancing rules.

South Korea’s aggressive tracing and testing early in the pandemic had made the country a global success story when many nations saw soaring infections, prompting wide lockdowns.

But the recent surge – stemming mostly from widespread clusters rather than the large, isolated outbreaks of the previous waves – has heightened concerns as the country runs short of hospital beds.

The daily total exceeded Wednesday’s record 1,076, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). Of the new cases, 1,072 were locally transmitted and 25 were imported, bringing the total coronavirus infections to 49,665, with 674 COVID-19 deaths as of Saturday midnight.

A prison in southeastern Seoul recorded a major outbreak, with 184 inmates and one worker infected, a Justice Ministry official said.

Conservative former president Lee Myung-bak, who is in the prion after being convicted of corruption, tested negative for virus, the official said.

About 61 people at a nursing home in the city of Cheongju contracted the virus, Yonhap news agency said.

The KCDC will disclose details of new coronavirus cases later in the day.

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