Seoul, Nov 19 (efe-epa).- South Korean authorities on Thursday tightened social distancing measures in the capital region amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
For the first time since August, on Wednesday and Thursday, the country’s new daily cases exceeded 300.
Level 1.5 restrictions (the second on a scale of five) were to be put into place Thursday in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi province, the two areas that have accumulated the most new cases. Restrictions are set to last at least two weeks.
In neighboring Incheon, where the case volume is somewhat lower, the restrictions will go into effect Monday.
South Korea registered 343 new cases Thursday, the highest since Aug. 29, of which 293 are local transmissions and 177 correspond to the capital region, where more than half of the national population of around 26 million people live.
The town of Gwangju, with 1.4 million inhabitants and located 260 kilometers south of Seoul, registered a notable outbreak in a hospital this week and also activated Level 1.5 on Thursday, as did other South Korean municipalities with potentially dangerous clusters.
Level 1.5 does not broadly affect the daily life of South Koreans, but it does affect the operations of bars, cafes, restaurants and karaoke venues, which should limit capacity and guarantee safe social distancing.
The capacity of sports stadiums and churches must not exceed 30 percent, while concert halls cannot accommodate more than 100 people, and attendees are not allowed to cheer, sing or eat during events.
Likewise, schools in the affected areas will not be able to accommodate more than two-thirds of the usual students in classrooms, with the remaining third following the lessons online.
Protecting education centers is an objective that the government has set itself, with special emphasis on the imminent Dec. 3 college entrance exams, which will be sat by almost half a million students and which are considered a national priority.
Given the increase in infections, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced that it will increase the number of staff dedicated to tracking infections from 30 to 190 to curb an expected increase in cases caused by falling temperatures forcing people indoors.
The tracking system is one of South Korea’s keys to success when it comes to managing the pandemic. So far, the country has accumulated 29,654 cases and 498 deaths. EFE-EPA