August 24, 2020 11:54
Korea reported 397 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, the most since March 6. The country has seen a resurgence of more than 300 infections a day for three days running, one in five untraceable.
Health authorities have warned that another lockdown could be imminent and banned all gatherings of more than 10 people and sent schoolkids home.
Yoon Tae-ho, who heads a government taskforce tackling the epidemic, said, "If the current rate of spread does not ease this week, we face a very grave situation that leaves us with no choice but to consider another lockdown."
Yoon added that discussions are still under way whether to lock down only the Seoul metropolitan area or the entire country. "We are also considering having more than 50 percent of staff at state-run companies telecommute and advising private businesses to do the same."
Jung Eun-kyeong, the chief of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said even the nearly 400 new cases on Saturday "are not the peak. We will see infections increase a bit more for the time being."
So far, 841 cases of COVID-19 infections have been traced directly to the evangelical Sarang Jeil church in northern Seoul, together with another 112 cases of secondary transmission. Health officials are investigating 168 places that church members have visited.
Korea reported another 266 new cases as of Monday morning, bringing the cumulative total to 17,665.
The Seoul metropolitan government on Sunday issued an administrative order making the wearing of face masks mandatory in public places both indoors and outdoors. They can be removed only in unavoidable circumstances like eating. After about two months' grace period until Oct. 12, violators will be fined up to W100,000 (US$1=W1,190).
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