Asia Today: Seoul surge appears to spread around South Korea

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Public officials disinfect pews as a precaution against the coronavirus at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported new infections from practically all major cities nationwide, including Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Sejong and Daegu, a southeastern city that was the epicenter of a massive outbreak in late February and March. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL – South Korea added its most new virus cases in months on Friday, driven by a surge around the capital that appears to be spreading nationwide.

The 324 new infections was its highest single day total since early March and the eighth consecutive triple-digit daily increase.

Most of the new cases are in the densely populated Seoul region, where health workers are scrambling to track transmissions from sources including churches, restaurants, schools and workers.

But the new infections reported Friday were from practically all major cities, including Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Sejong and Daegu, the southeastern city that was the epicenter of a massive outbreak in late February and March.

The new figures reported by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the nation’s caseload to 16,670, including 309 deaths.

Health authorities managed to contain the virus in the Daegu region by April, ramping up tests and using cellphone location data, credit-card records and security camera videos to trace and isolate contacts, which allowed the country to weather the outbreak without placing meaningful restrictions on its economy.

Another factor was that the narrowness of the Daegu outbreak effectively aided its containment — most were linked to a single church congregation with thousands of members.

It’s unclear whether South Korea’s previous formula of success will be as effective since the Seoul region has many more people and new clusters are occurring in various places as people increasingly venture out in public.