With cases at four-month high, South Korea warns of 'massive' Covid risk

Topics Coronavirus | South Korea | Lockdown

South Korea in June adopted a social-distancing system with three levels of restrictions
The South Korean government is studying the need to raise social-distancing restrictions to the highest level as officials warn the country is at the risk of a “massive nationwide outbreak.”

An additional 397 new virus cases were reported on Sunday, the highest number since March 7. A quarter of those cases were reported outside of Seoul’s metropolitan area. Infections have exceeded 300 for three days.

“Cases are rising in 17 cities and provinces across the nation, and we are now at the verge of a massive nationwide outbreak,” Jung Eun-kyeong, head of Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a briefing on Sunday.

South Korea in June adopted a social-distancing system with three levels of restrictions. The government on Sunday expanded Level 2 social-distancing rules already in place in the Seoul Metropolitan area and Busan to the rest of the country.

Level 2 restrictions forbid gatherings of 50 or more people indoors, and 100 or more outdoors, with limits placed on events such as weddings, church services and sports games. It also prevents the operation of 12 types of “high-risk” facilities such as bars and standing concert halls

.Level 3, the highest, prohibits meetings and events of 10 people or more and gives authorities the power to limit business hours at shopping malls and retail stores. Rising infections and the possibility for Level 3 rules have also bolstered speculation that there could be a second round of cash handouts and another extra budget.

“The government is currently studying the need, as well as the timing and method of applying Level 3 restrictions,” Jung said.Residents in Seoul must wear a mask both indoors and outdoors when in public starting Monday, Yonhap reported, citing the metropolitan government’s acting mayor.

The nation of 50 million people has recorded a total of 17,399 infections and 309 fatalities. It reported more than 5,000 infections related to a religious sect called Shincheongji between February and March, which made the nation the world’s second-worst hit by the virus at that time. Earlier this month, hundreds of cases were tied to Sarang Jeil Church, also described by some as a sect.

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