Seoul bans protests of more than 10 people over COVID-19

Seoul, Aug 20 (efe-epa).- The Seoul metropolitan government announced Thursday that it will ban demonstrations of more than 10 people in the South Korean capital at least until Aug. 30 due to the large outbreak of COVID-19 that affects the city.

The measure will take effect at midnight Thursday, the city government said in a statement.

The council justifies its decision by recalling that Seoul has a “high population density (about 16,000 people per square kilometer) and a large number of commuting population.”

The announcement comes in light of the persistent increase in cases in the South Korean capital and after a large demonstration (about 10,000 attendees) was held Saturday in the center of the city, attended by thousands of followers of the Sarang Jeil Church.

This Presbyterian church is the origin of the second-largest focus that the country is currently facing with 676 infections already linked to the outbreak.

For his part, the general director of the Korea Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Center (KCDC), Kwon Jung-wook, said Thursday at a press conference that there are already 18 people not linked to the church who apparently contracted the virus in these rallies.

In turn, the National Police Agency (NPA) reported that four agents were also infected in these protests by conservative groups against the liberal government of President Moon Jae-in.

The increase in cases in South Korea, which on Thursday reported 276 new local infections (of them, 226 in Seoul) is not limited to the capital, since 15 other cities and regions have seen increases in the last days, due to secondary broadcasts linked to the church or local outbreaks.

Given the increase in infections in the capital, last week Seoul and other neighboring areas activated phase 2 of distancing, which involves the closure of public spaces and sports stadiums, the reduction of students in classrooms and the prohibition of meetings of more than 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

In addition, it implies the closure of facilities classified as “risky” such as after-school academies with more than 300 students, karaoke bars or internet cafes.

Religious services and any face-to-face activity linked to temples and churches have also been prohibited.

With 16,346 infections and 307 deaths in total, South Korea is one of the countries that have best controlled the pandemic so far thanks to its comprehensive contact tracing system. EFE-EPA


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