SEOUL: The capital of South Korea and its surroundings will close bars and nightclubs, limit religious gatherings and restrict service in restaurants, in a bid to contain a third wave of coronavirus infections, the health minister said on Sunday.
Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 330 new ones per day coronavirus cases as of midnight Saturday, down from the 386 reported the previous day, but the fifth consecutive day of more than 300 new cases.
A nationwide epidemic was due to clusters of infections in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, he said, which is home to around half of the country’s 52 million people.
Starting Tuesday, major cafes in the Seoul area will be required to offer only take-out and delivery services, while restaurants must close in-person meals after 9 p.m. Further restrictions will be placed on facilities such as gymnasiums, with caps on participation in religious gatherings and sporting events.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting that preventive distancing regulations may be needed to avoid a wider outbreak, Yonhap News Agency reported.
“We are at a critical time to deal with a large number of infections across the country,” Chung said.
On Saturday, a KDCA official said the country could face an outbreak that surpasses the previous two waves of infections, if it fails to block the current spread.
The strengthened prevention guidelines are aimed in part at allowing students to take highly competitive annual college entrance exams scheduled for December 3.
South Korea has deployed an aggressive tracing, testing and quarantine effort to stem the outbreaks without imposing a lockdown. But the country was chased by a persistent number of small infections, bringing the total number of cases to 30,733 with 505 deaths.
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