Published on : Friday, July 9, 2021
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced that South Korea has decided to raise its anti-coronavirus restrictions to the highest level in Seoul and some neighbouring regions for two weeks starting Monday, July 12, following new rise COVID-19 cases. The country reported 1,316 new Covid-19 cases as of Thursday, up from Wednesday’s previous record of 1,275 a day.
Under the new curbs, people have been advised to stay home as much as possible, schools have been closed, public meetings are restricted to two people after 6PM and rallies or other events are banned. No spectators are allowed to attend sports matches, while hotels can only operate at two-thirds of full capacity.
Movies and concerts are not allowed after 10 PM, and nightclubs and bars have been asked to stay shut, while restaurants and cafes would be allowed limited seating and only take-out services after 10 PM. Employers are advised to increase flexible staffing with 30% of staff working remotely. All private gatherings have also been discouraged.
PM Kim announced that during the two-week semi-lockdown, the government will suspend a programme introduced earlier this year that allowed vaccinated citizens to gather outside without masks. On Thursday, health officials warned that the new case numbers may nearly double by the end of July prompting Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum to announce two weeks of tougher curbs.
Level 4 is the most severe form of restriction in South Korea that is short of a full lockdown. PM Kim said in a statement that Seoul alone saw 500 confirmed cases for the third day and four out of five infections are from the metropolitan Seoul area. Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol added that of the locally acquired cases, 78 per cent were concentrated in the greater Seoul area, and the detection rate of highly transmissible Delta variant surged nearly three-folds in a week.
South Korea has reported a total of 165,344 Covid-19 infections with 2,036 deaths. It has only given both shots in the dual vaccination process to just over 10 per cent of its population of 52 million. Nearly 30 per cent have received at least one dose, the majority of who are aged over 60. The country aims to reach herd immunity before November by inoculating 70 per cent of the public with at least one shot by September.
Experts said the government’s Covid-19 strategy is to avoid the hit to the economy that has been seen in full lockdowns elsewhere. On Monday, President Moon Jae-in will convene a meeting with top officials of the greater Seoul area to address the measures, as reported by presidential spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee.