Coronavirus Countries tighten measures -South Korea

South Korea's third wave may be largest if spread is not contained

A street near Gangnam Station in southern Seoul yesterday, the first weekend since social distancing curbs were raised a notch higher for the greater Seoul area in response to a surge in new coronavirus cases.
A street near Gangnam Station in southern Seoul yesterday, the first weekend since social distancing curbs were raised a notch higher for the greater Seoul area in response to a surge in new coronavirus cases.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL • South Korea grappled with a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, as a senior official warned that it could be the country's largest wave of infections if the spread is not quickly contained.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 386 new daily coronavirus cases as at midnight on Friday, bringing total infections to 30,403, with 503 deaths.

New cases topped 300 for the fourth day in a row, after last Tuesday saw the highest since August.

"We are at a critical juncture; if we fail to block the current spread, we could be facing a large nationwide infection that surpasses" the first two waves, senior KDCA official Lim Sook-young told a news briefing yesterday.

The country was hit by a jump in cases in late February to early March, and in August.

The standard for imposing tougher social distancing measures was expected to be reached soon, Ms Lim said.

The daily national tally is expected to reach 400 new cases this week and more than 600 early next month if the current rate of one patient infecting 1.5 people is not curbed, she added.

Due to recent infections spreading among college and private after-school tuition academies, she especially urged young people to refrain from meeting and to get tested early.

South Korea tightened prevention guidelines on Thursday ahead of highly competitive annual college entrance exams on Dec 3.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Friday called for all social gatherings to be cancelled, but bars, nightclubs, religious services and sports events continue to be permitted with attendance restrictions.

South Korea is negotiating to secure Covid-19 vaccines for 30 million people, or about 60 per cent of the population, of which vaccines for 10 million people are expected to be procured through the global Covid-19 vaccine facility known as Covax, Ms Lim said.

The Seoul metropolitan region recorded 262 new cases on Friday, up from 218 cases on Thursday.

Health officials have previously said the capital region, where about half of the country's 52 million people live and work, could be subjected to tougher restrictions if the average daily infection over a week rose to 200 or more.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2020, with the headline 'Third wave may be largest if spread is not contained'. Print Edition | Subscribe