(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Korea is banning giant gatherings, closing seashores, shutting nightspots and church buildings and eradicating followers from skilled sports activities in strict new measures introduced Saturday because it battles the unfold of the coronavirus.
Well being Minister Park Neung-hoo introduced the steps shortly after the Korea Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention reported 332 new circumstances — the ninth straight day of triple-digit will increase. The nationwide caseload is now at 17,002, together with 309 deaths.
Whereas a lot of the new circumstances got here from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan space, which has been on the middle of the viral surge in latest weeks, infections had been additionally reported in virtually each main metropolis and city, elevating considerations that transmissions are slipping uncontrolled.
The federal government had already imposed elevated social distancing measures in Seoul this week after resisting them for months out of financial considerations.
“We at the moment are in a really harmful state of affairs that might set off an enormous nationwide unfold of COVID-19,” Park mentioned.
Church buildings had been a significant supply of recent circumstances within the Seoul space earlier than authorities shut them this week. Nightclubs, karaoke bars, buffet eating places and laptop gaming cafes within the better capital area have additionally closed and spectators are banned once more from baseball and soccer video games, simply weeks after groups had been allowed to promote parts of their seats.
The identical measures will apply nationwide from Sunday, though Park mentioned native governments will probably be permitted to train some degree of flexibility, resembling advising enterprise shutdowns reasonably than implementing them, if infections are low.
KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyeong has endorsed even stronger restrictions. If there’s no signal that the virus unfold is slowing after the weekend, she mentioned the nation ought to contemplate elevating social distancing measures to “Degree 3,” which incorporates prohibiting gatherings of greater than 10 individuals, shutting faculties, halting skilled sports activities and advising non-public corporations to have staff do business from home.
Yoon Taeho, a senior Well being Ministry official, mentioned the federal government will assessment the impact of the restrictions earlier than deciding whether or not to strengthen them additional.
As of Saturday afternoon, practically 800 infections have been linked to a Seoul church led by a vocal critic of the nation’s president. Sarang Jeil Church pastor Jun Kwang-hun was hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday after taking part in an anti-government protest final week the place he shared a microphone on stage with different activists. Greater than 100 infections have been tied to protesters.
Police raided the church late Friday whereas making an attempt to safe a extra complete checklist of its members who stay out of contact. Well being employees have used cellphone location knowledge to determine some 50,000 individuals who spent greater than 30 minutes on the road throughout the protest final Saturday and have been alerting them to get examined. Round 18,000 of them have been examined, mentioned Kwon Jun-wook, director of South Korea’s Nationwide Well being Institute.