South Korea reported its highest daily number of coronavirus cases to date on Saturday, with a surge centered on the capital region raising fears the country could lose control of the spread.
Authorities announced 950 new infections after several days, reporting figures ranging from around 500 to 600.
Some 669 people were reported in the greater Seoul area on Saturday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, raising concerns over a major outbreak in the densely populated area – home to half of the 52 million people. inhabitants of the country.
“This is the last obstacle before the deployment of vaccines and treatments,” President Moon Jae-in said in a statement, calling the situation “very serious”.
“The government will make all possible efforts using all administrative power” to control the spread, he added.
150 additional test centers will be installed in areas with a high movement of people, including train stations.
The new figure came despite the government’s tightening of social distancing rules in the capital region earlier this week.
The measures include banning gatherings of more than 50 people and spectators at sporting events. Cafes can only serve take-out, while restaurants must close before 9 p.m., with only deliveries allowed thereafter.
Despite the changes, “the people’s movement has not been significantly reduced,” Lim Sook-young, a senior KDCA official, told a press briefing.
“Infections caused by face-to-face meetings continue… Please cancel all these meetings,” she said.
Saturday’s figure brings the total number of recorded cases in the country to more than 36,800.
South Korea has suffered one of the worst early outbreaks of Covid-19 outside mainland China, but has largely brought it under control through its ‘trace, test and treat’ approach. It has never imposed the type of orderly lockdown in much of Europe and other parts of the world.
The country has already been presented as a model in the fight against the pandemic, in particular by the World Health Organization.
The public has largely followed social distancing and other rules, such as wearing masks.
© 2020 AFP