Coronavirus wave showing signs of spreading out of control

19-Aug-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The COVID-19 crisis appears to be spinning out of control in Korea with the Seoul metropolitan area recording triple-digit increases in new infections over the past five days.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 246 new cases Monday, pushing up the total caseload to 15,761 with 306 deaths. Among the 246, 201 were in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, as the total number of cases over the last five days reached 991.

Mass infections were reported to have started in churches and then spread to people at restaurants, coffee shops, military bases, protest sites and police stations. COVID-19 is posing a grave challenge to quarantine officials who have branded the current situation worse than the outbreak among the Shincheonji Church of Jesus members in Daegu in February and March.

In response, the government banned all churches activities in the Seoul metropolitan area, except for an online worship starting from midnight Tuesday.

“To prevent the spread of the virus faster, the government will tighten social distancing rules in the Seoul metropolitan area,” prime minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a special address to the nation. “If these fail to bring the number down, we won’t have any other option but to tighten social distancing rules to the maximum which will have a huge impact on the country’s economy and citizen’s lives.”

According to Chung, the government will also temporarily order the shutdown of high-risk facilities such as karaoke and PC rooms, clubs, buffet restaurants, public libraries, galleries and museums.

Officials projected that this week will be critical in containing the situation, as any failure to do this will inevitably lead to a second COVID-19 wave.

Sarang Jeil Church, an embattled Presbyterian congregation located in Seoul which has emerged as a new infection cluster, saw 457 of its members contracting the virus as of Tuesday. The quarantine authorities said 3,200 church members out of 4,000 remain under self-isolation.

Among the confirmed cases was the controversial pastor of the church, Jun Kwang-hoon, who attended a mass anti-government demonstration where more than 10,000 participated last Saturday. A vocal anti-Moon Jae-in government critic, Jun and his followers have previously claimed that 5G transmitters were responsible for COVID-19. Now he has reportedly said he is a victim of a COVID-19 terror attack waged by North Korea though he did not extrapolate on the new claim.

Health workers are now trying to track down those who came in contact with the pastor at the demonstration site.

“To those who’ve been to Saturday’s rally, we’d like to ask you to have a coronavirus test as soon as possible,” said Kim Gang-lip, a senior official responsible for the government’s quarantine efforts.

The authorities confirmed three cases involving people arrested at the demonstration site.

In response to the growing number of new cases, Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung issued an administrative order that made wearing a face mask in public mandatory for everybody in the province.

The rapid spike in COVID-19 cases has raised local government concerns about a shortage of hospital beds. Seoul has only 85 beds available for critically ill COVID-19 patients. The city government said it’s trying to make more available. Public facilities hosting patients with mild or no symptoms have the capacity to house at least 440 patients.

Meanwhile, the Korean Medical Association proposed a meeting with the health ministry Tuesday which was immediately accepted. The proposal came only three days prior to a scheduled strike by interns and residents. This time, the strike will have no deadline. Eyes are on whether the government and doctors will be able to settle their differences and the doctors will return to work as the crisis continues.

The strike was launched in response to the government’s recent plan to increase the number of doctors to better cope with infectious diseases and to deliver quality services to those in remote areas. Doctors are, however, angered by the plan and are fiercely opposing it.


Category: Korea

Print This Post

Comments are closed.