Will government extend Level 2.5 distancing rules in capital area?

12-Sep-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Government officials are agonising over whether to extend tougher social distancing guidelines for Seoul and surrounding areas as the number of daily new COVID-19 cases remains in the triple digits, according to the officials Friday.

It is not an easy decision for the government because difficulties in economic conditions have been worsening especially for the self-employed, small business owners and other low-income groups.

The government aimed to reduce daily new cases to below 100 when raising its social distancing restrictions to Level 2.5 in the Seoul metropolitan area, August 31.

But the nation’s daily count of new virus cases has been between 100 and 200 for more than a week after the figure hit its peak at 441 on July 26.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country added 176 more COVID-19 cases, including 161 locally transmitted infections, for Thursday, raising the total caseload to 21,919.

The government adopted a three-tier social distancing scheme on June 28, and raised the distancing guidelines from Level 1 to Level 2 for the country on August 23, as the nation’s daily new cases have been rising by triple digits every day since August 13.

The level was raised to the so-called Level 2.5 in the Seoul metropolitan area August 31 amid fears of more outbreaks in the densely populated region. This level of measures is supposed to end this Sunday.

Under the Level 2.5 guidelines, restaurants and bars can operate until 9 p.m., and only takeout and delivery is allowed after 9 p.m.

For franchise coffee chains, bakeries and ice cream parlors, only takeout and delivery is allowed.

The authorities attributed the number of daily infections that have been in triple digits to continued sporadic outbreaks traced to a variety of places including churches and hospitals. The spread may have been caused by people unaware of their infected status and yet to be diagnosed.

The government said it would decide whether to extend or ease the Level 2.5 social distancing requirements in the Seoul metropolitan area on the weekend after watching the virus situation for one or two more days, according to prime minister Chung Sye-kyun.

“We want to ease the enhanced rules when thinking about those who have made sacrifices,” Chung said during a government meeting on COVID-19 responses. “But at the same time we are worried over the possibility that the decision to ease the rules could lead to a resurgence of infections.”

Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official in charge of containment measures, said the government could “take a third road” other than extending the Level 2.5 or easing it.

“We will listen to opinions from experts and local governments, and hold sufficient discussions before making a decision,” he told a media briefing.

Health experts warned against making a hasty decision to ease the enhanced rules.

“If the government raises the level of social distancing, there would be a decrease in the number of new cases for a moment,” said Kim Woo-joo, a professor for infectious diseases at Korea University.

“Likewise, if the government eases the tougher social distancing requirements, the number of new cases would increase. The government should keenly monitor the degree of risk of infections before making a decision.”



Category: Korea

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