South Korea reports 27 new coronavirus cases

South Korean army soldiers prepare to spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at a traditional market in Daegu, South Korea, Wednesday, April 8, 2020 – Kim Do-hoon/Yonhap via AP

SEOUL: South Korea has reported 27 new cases of the coronavirus, marking its ninth consecutive day below 100, as infections continue to wane in the worst-hit city of Daegu.

Figures released by South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought nationwide totals to 10,450 cases and 208 virus-related deaths.

While the country’s caseload has slowed from early March, when it was reporting around 500 new cases per day, KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong has raised the possibility of a broader “quiet spread,” pointing to recent transmissions at bars and other leisure facilities that could indicate eased attitudes toward social distancing.

There’s also concern over a steady rise in infections linked to passengers arriving from overseas and at least dozens of cases where patients who had been diagnosed as recovered from COVID-19 test positive for the second time after being released from hospitals.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Friday urged health authorities to thoroughly investigate the possibility of re-infections, saying the 74 patients who tested positive again so far account for more than 1% of national recoveries.

Health authorities have been cautious about discussing whether people could get re-infected after making a full recovery.

They say the country’s standard RT-PCR tests, designed to amplify the genetic materials of the virus so that even small amounts are detected, may not reliably distinguish between remains of dead virus and infectious particles.

They also say infections could be re-activated after initially fading in patients whose bodies hadn’t fully developed immunity after experiencing mild symptoms.