South Korea Reports No New Coronavirus Domestic Cases for the First Time Since February

New cases of the novel coronavirus in South Korea have been leveling off since early March, dropping to less than 10 new daily cases earlier this month. The country hit a new milestone on Thursday, reporting no new domestic cases according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control (KCDC).

"As of 0:00, 30 April 2020, the total number of confirmed cases is 10,765 (including 1,065 imported cases), of which 9,059 cases have been discharged from isolation. Newly confirmed cases are 4 in total. The newly confirmed cases are all imported. For the first time since 18 February (the 31st confirmed case), no confirmed case was reported in the community level," the KCDC said in a statement.

"KCDC is planning to conduct serological studies to check herd immunity and to find out transmission trend. Use of blood samples collected through Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and antibody test in the Special Management Regions are under consideration," the KCDC notes.

Health officials also confirmed that no local transmission of the virus took place during the country's parliamentary election held this month, where voters were required to wear masks and plastic gloves when casting ballots, Reuters reports.

"Twenty-nine million voters participated in the April 15 parliamentary election...not one case related to the election has been reported during the 14 days of incubation period," Yoon Tae-ho, the director-general of public health policy for the country's health ministry, said at a briefing.

South Korea was formerly one of the epicenters of the outbreak in Asia. For a period, it had the highest number of cases outside China, where the virus was first detected in the city of Wuhan. The first case in South Korea was recorded on January 20 and was reported to be a Chinese national from Wuhan.

South Korea saw an explosion of cases in the wake of the outbreak in February, seeing over 500 daily new cases from around late February and peaking at nearly 850 new cases in early March.

The majority of the cases in South Korea were reported to be in the city of Daegu, which is home to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ). The religious group is known to hold mass services with members sitting on the floor in close proximity for long periods.

The country started to see a dramatic decline in new cases in early March, dropping from around 448 on March 7 to 35 on March 10. New infections began to plateau from around March 12 to April 1, hovering around 100-150. Daily new cases dropped below 100 from April 2 and below 10 from April 21, according to figures from the KCDC.

Jogyesa temple, Seoul, South Korea, April 2020
Buddhist believers wear face masks as they pray during a birthday of Buddha at Jogyesa Temple on April 30, 2020 in Seoul, the South Korean capital. Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises. Getty Images

The country's daily death toll remained at less than 10 throughout the outbreak and its total death count to date is at 246. Over 84 percent of South Korea's infected population have recovered and the number of active cases (patients being treated at hospital or recovering at home) in the country has been declining from around March 15.

South Korea's rigorous virus testing has been a key aspect of its mitigation measures. The country has tested over 619,000 people for the virus as of Thursday, as illustrated in the graph below provided by Statista. By March 20, the country had tested more than 316,000 people.

South Korea COVID-19 cases, tests, recoveries
The number of COVID-19 cases, recoveries, deaths and tests conducted in South Korea. Statista

The novel coronavirus has spread to more than 3.1 million people across at least 185 countries and regions. More than 227,800 have died from infection, while over 982,800 have recovered, as of Thursday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates countries with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Statista
This infographic shows the countries with the most COVID-19 cases. Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.