South Korea facing ‘crisis’, PM says as Covid measures harden South Korea

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South Korea has stepped up social distancing measures amid rising new coronavirus cases, with the country’s prime minister warning that action is needed to avert a crisis with the onset of the winter flu season.

The country has been widely praised for preventing a serious Covid-19 outbreak through a combination of vigorous mass testing, tracking, tracing and isolation, coupled with social distancing and the wearing of masks.

But the decision to implement stricter distancing rules comes after health officials on Tuesday reported more than 200 new infections for the fourth day in a row.

The country added 230 more cases, bringing the total to 28,999, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The death toll remained unchanged at 497, he added.

“Our anti-coronavirus efforts are facing a crisis and the situation is particularly dire in the Seoul metropolitan area,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said at a meeting of senior health officials.

“Today’s decision will cause greater inconvenience in our daily life. But we all know from experience that there will be an even bigger crisis if we don’t act now.

Officials have identified clusters in offices, medical facilities and small gatherings in the large, densely populated area of ​​Seoul, which is home to around half of South Korea’s 52 million people.

The level 1.5 measures – the second lowest on a scale of five – will go into effect in the Seoul metropolitan area from Thursday, according to the Yonhap news agency.

While there are no new restrictions on most day-to-day activities, facilities considered to be at a higher risk of spreading the virus, such as bars, clubs, concert halls, must implement stricter measures, in particular by increasing the distances between the tables and by installing partitions.

In addition, political rallies, concerts and festivals must not have more than 100 people in attendance, and singing, singing and eating are prohibited.

Churches – which have been identified as the source of several large groups throughout the pandemic – and sporting events should keep attendance at a maximum of 30% of capacity, while school classrooms should not be two-thirds full.

The KDCA has warned that the pace of transmissions may accelerate as influenza season approaches, and identified nationwide end-of-year and college entrance socialization exams that should stand early next month as potential risk factors.

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