South Korean Prime Minister warns of tougher social distancing measures as coronavirus cases rise


South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during an emergency meeting on Covid-19 response in Seoul, South Korea on December 12.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during an emergency meeting on Covid-19 response in Seoul, South Korea on December 12. Yonhap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

If the current trend in rising coronavirus cases continues, then raising the social distancing measure to the highest level would be unavoidable, South Korean Prime Minister, Chung Sye-kyun warned on Saturday.

He posted the warning on his verified Facebook account as he held an emergency meeting to discuss surging coronavirus cases on Saturday.

A raise in the alert level would mean a ban on gathering of more than 10 people, work from home for all non-essential employees and a shift to online for all schools and church services.

South Korea was widely praised as a Covid-19 success story, and initially managed to keep the pandemic largely under control.

But the nation reported 950 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, marking the highest jump in single day cases since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Seoul Metropolitan Area accounts for the majority of the total with a record 669 new cases.

Currently the national alert level in South Korea is under Level 2 which is the third highest level. It’s higher for the Seoul Metropolitan Area – at under 2.5 – the second highest level.

Alert levels in South Korea range from 1, which denotes the least concerning situation, to 3 signifying the situation requires toughest measure. Each time the alert level is raised it goes up by 0.5.

“A very serious situation:” South Korean President, Moon Jae-in also warned that the surge in Covid-19 cases presents a “very serious situation.”

“In fact, we cannot but say that it’s an emergency situation,” he said on Saturday via a post on his verified Facebook and Twitter account.

In a press briefing on Saturday, KDCA official, Im Suk-yeong said 90 new coronavirus cases were found in a religious facility in the Western district of Seoul and 66 new cases were found in a nursing hospital in outskirts of Seoul.

An additional 14 cases were discovered while investigating a cluster originating in a restaurant in central Seoul, bringing the total cases linked to the restaurant to 230, she added.

Testing centers boost: In a bid to get a jump on the rising cases, 150 testing stations will be installed around Greater Seoul’s high risk areas.

These will come online on December 14 and operate for three weeks, Im added.

The testing will be conducted anonymously to encourage public participation.

Im also said 810 government workers, including members of the military, police have been deployed to aid epidemiological investigation. 480 more workers will join the effort in the future.

Despite the stricter social distancing measures that came into effect on December 5 in the capital city of Seoul, movement of people has not reduced sufficiently, Im added.

Im warned the current trend will likely continue for a week before showing the result of the increased social distancing measures.


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