Seoul, Jan 2 (efe-epa).- South Korea on Saturday extended the current level of coronavirus restrictions, which includes a ban on gatherings of more than four people, until at least Jan.17 to contain the spread of the virus in the country.
The government has enforced Level 2.5 distancing measures – the second-highest in the country’s five-tier Covid-19 alert system – in the greater Seoul area, comprising of the capital, neighboring Incheon and Gyeonggi province, and Level 2 for the rest of the country.
Level 2.5 requires bars and restaurants to close at 9 pm and force nightclubs and karaoke bars to shut down.
In addition to this is a nationwide ban on private gatherings of more than four people.
Despite the current number of daily cases, local authorities have avoided activating the highest level of restrictions, involving the closure of many types of businesses, to avoid economic damage.
“We have maintained our quarantine and medical response capabilities as of yet, and in consideration of the potential shock to the economy, we will not raise the scheme to Level 3, which involves a ban on the operation of facilities used by many people,” Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told reporters, according to Yonhap news agency.
The minister stressed that the country was facing a “very crucial turning point” to determine whether virus cases would continue to surge or slow down.
“The two weeks ahead will be a period during which we can solidify our anti-virus campaign and reduce the number of patients,” he said.
South Korea, which since the start of the pandemic has avoided imposing a nationwide lockdown or closing its borders, is one of the countries that has best managed the pandemic so far.
However, the country saw record infections in recent weeks, with around 1,000 cases recorded daily.
On Saturday, South Korea registered 788 local cases. The lower number of infections is mainly because only about 53,000 tests, almost half of the routine, were carried out on Friday as it was a holiday.
The country has recorded just over 62,000 Covid-19 cases and 924 deaths, with a mortality rate of 1.5 percent. EFE-EPA