S. Korea baffled as 116 patients who were cleared test positive again, Latest World News - The New Paper

S. Korea baffled as 116 patients who were cleared test positive again

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SEOUL: South Korea reported yesterday that at least 116 people initially cleared of the coronavirus had tested positive again, even as officials suggested they would soon look at easing strict recommendations aimed at preventing new outbreaks.

South Korea reported only 25 new cases overall yesterday, but the rise in "reactivated" patients has raised concerns.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the apparent relapses, but Mr Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has said the virus may have been reactivated rather than the patients being re-infected.

Other experts said faulty tests may be playing a role, or remnants of the virus may still be in patients' systems, but may not be infectious or of danger to the host or others.

The 116 cases more than doubled the 51 such cases South Korea reported a week earlier.

The country plans to send 600,000 coronavirus testing kits to the United States today in the first such shipment following a request from US President Donald Trump, a Seoul official told Reuters yesterday.

Government leaders, meanwhile, called on South Koreans to continue following guidelines and restrictions on social gatherings, but hinted such measures could soon be eased.

South Korea has called on residents to follow strict social distancing until at least Sunday, but as cases have dropped and the weather has improved, a growing number of people have been flouting the guidelines.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government would soon be looking to loosen the guidelines, which call for people to stay at home, avoid social gatherings of any type, and go out only for essential reasons.

Some local governments have imposed stricter measures - closing bars and nightclubs, banning large demonstrations, and limiting church services.

Mr Chung cautioned that even when the restrictions are eased, the country will not return to life as before the outbreak. "We need a very cautious approach because any premature easing of social distancing could bring irreversible consequences, and have to ponder deeply about when and how we switch to the new system," he said. - REUTERS