SEOUL: South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Wednesday (Feb 17) warned against the loosening enforcement of social distancing rules after the number of new coronavirus cases hit the highest levels in nearly 40 days.
The government relaxed distancing curbs on Saturday to take effect starting this week, after getting on top of a third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that peaked at around 1,200 daily cases in late December.
But the numbers shot back up in just three days, topping 600 for the first time in 39 days on Tuesday, after a ban on nighttime entertainment facilities was lifted and a restaurant curfew extended by one hour to 10pm.
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Chung said there were signs of lax discipline, singling out nightclubs opening at 5am and people partying at a hotel after the curfew.
“We’ve eased distancing to help small business owners maintain their livelihoods, not to keep a slack rein on the virus,” he told a televised meeting.
“The third wave is not over, and some experts are even warning about a potential fourth wave in March or April … now is never the time to loosen up.”
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 621 cases as of midnight on Tuesday, as testing increased following last week’s Lunar New Year holidays. Cases in the previous few days ranged from the 300s to the 400s.
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Authorities are on high alert as more cluster infections could emerge due to the holidays, during which millions of Koreans travelled across the country to visit relatives or tourist sites.
South Korea’s total infections grew to 84,946 cases, with 1,538 deaths.
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