South Korea expands social distancing rules as coronavirus outbreak grows


SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea on Saturday announced it would roll out stricter social distancing guidelines to curb the spread of the coronavirus nationwide as it battles a new outbreak of the disease spreading from the capital, Seoul.

FILE PHOTO: Women wearing face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) use portable ventilators to cool off in Seoul, South Korea August 20, 2020. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji

Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 315 new domestic coronavirus infections as of midnight Friday, the latest in a series of triple-digit increases in new local cases.

South Korea has used advanced contact tracing and widespread testing to contain its first outbreak of the novel coronavirus, but Asia’s fourth-largest economy has seen persistent outbreaks in recent weeks, mostly in and around Seoul and its densely-populated surroundings. populated.

The latest figures bring the country’s total to 17,002 with 309 deaths.

In Seoul and some surrounding cities, the government has reimposed second-tier social distancing rules, including restricting large gatherings, banning in-person church meetings while shutting down nightclubs, karaoke bars, buffets and internet cafes.

The same guidelines will be imposed on other parts of the country as of Sunday. However, in some areas where infections are lower, the guidelines would be recommended rather than mandatory.

“If we don’t reduce the spread (of the virus) at an early stage, it will develop like a large-scale wave. For us, there is nothing more important than focusing on the response to COVID-19, ”Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a briefing on Saturday.

Health officials have categorized the social distancing rules into three stages – with Phase 1 being the least intense and Phase 3 the most difficult, where schools and businesses are asked to close.

“If we improve the social distancing guidelines in the third step, it is inevitable that they will have an impact on people’s daily lives and economies. We urge you to take the situation seriously, ”KCDC deputy director Kwon Jun-wook said at a briefing.

Kwon said South Korea had provided remdesivir, an antiviral drug, to treat 143 patients in 35 hospitals, but access to the drug was spotty due to problems on the supplier side.

In June, South Korea asked drug maker Gilead Sciences Inc to supply enough remdesivir to treat more than 5,000 patients with COVID-19 for a possible second wave of infections. [nL4N2EF26B]

The health ministry also said it was postponing its decision to pursue policies increasing the number of medical students until the COVID-19 situation stabilizes.

Thousands of South Korean doctors have staged strikes and protests against the government’s plans to train new doctors, saying there are enough doctors but better conditions and systems are needed to properly affect them. [nL4N2FN1LX]

Report by Heekyong Yang; Edited by Lincoln Feast.

Our standards:Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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