South Korea to tighten social distancing, warns of new COVID-19 crisis
South Korea will impose stricter social distancing rules for the greater Seoul area a month after easing them, officials said on Tuesday, warning of an even bigger crisis if anti-COVID-19 efforts fail to dampen a spike in new cases, Reuters reports.
Starting Thursday, tighter curbs will ban public gatherings of 100 people or more, limit religious services and audiences at sporting events to 30% capacity, and require high-risk facilities including clubs and karaoke bars to broaden distance among guests.
South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories after tackling the first major COVID-19 epidemic outside China with aggressive tracing and testing, but continues to battle persistent rises in infections.
The tougher restrictions came as the daily case tally hovered above 200 for a fourth consecutive day, with a series of cluster outbreaks emerging from offices, medical facilities and small gatherings in Seoul and surrounding regions where around half of the country’s 52 million population live.
“Our anti-coronavirus efforts are facing a crisis,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting.
“The heightened curbs would cause greater inconvenience in our daily lives ... but we all know from our experiences that there would be an even bigger crisis if we don’t act now.”
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 230 cases, the highest since early September. Nearly 68% of the 202 domestic infections came from the greater Seoul area.
The country’s total infections rose to 28,998, with 494 deaths.