(Update 1 adds details of new restrictions, minor edits, new headline and lede)
Seoul, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- South Korea reported 629 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, its highest daily tally in nine months, with Seoul adding a record 291 infections, prompting authorities to toughen restrictions.
Of the 629 new infections reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Friday, 600 were locally transmitted, and 463 of those were from the capital region, where some 26 million people – more than half the population of the country – live.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said at a press conference on Friday that the government will closely monitor the situation until Sunday before making a decision on increasing restrictions nationwide.
It has already been announced that the country will enforce tougher social distancing rules between Dec. 7 and Jan. 3 to try to prevent crowds during New Year celebrations.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced that starting Saturday it will force all shops to close at 9 pm, with the exception of supermarkets or 24-hour stores that do not exceed 300 square meters, and will reduce the frequency of public transport.
Over the past 10 days, both Seoul and the other regions that make up the capital region (Gyeonggi province and Incheon city) have been at Level 2 social distancing restrictions – the third-highest in the country’s five-tier COVID-19 alert system – which implies the closure of restaurants at 9 pm.
The rest of the country is at Level 1.5, which applies capacity limits in restaurants and bars.
Under Level 2.5, which could soon be imposed throughout the country, any gathering with more than 50 people is prohibited and all businesses or facilities are required to close at 9 pm, as Seoul enforced on Friday.
Despite the increase in COVID-19 cases South Korea has been witnessing in recent weeks during a drop in temperature, the country is still one of those that has best managed its epidemic so far.
To date, there have been 36,332 cases in the country, and 536 deaths, with a mortality rate of 1.47 percent.
In turn, its 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 12.38, about 20 times lower than the rate many countries in Europe have been recording in recent days. EFE-EPA