August 20, 2021 09:43
Some 2,052 people newly tested positive for coronavirus as of Friday morning, the second day in a row infections rose above 2,000 again.
The government on Friday extended lockdown for another two weeks until Sept. 5 since the current rules seem to have had little effect in reducing numbers over the weeks they have been in place while vaccination proceeds at a snail's pace.
But hopes are dimming that Koreans will be able to enjoy a normal Chuseok, the biggest holiday of the year in late September.
The current lockdown has been in place for six weeks in the capital region and for four weeks across the country, but infection numbers remain relatively high.
The fresh extension could kill the hopes of hundreds of thousands of small businesses for business to pick up as the holiday approaches.
But the gathering ban will be eased very slightly for vaccinated people starting from next week. Currently, private gatherings are limited to two people in the capital region after 6 p.m., but up to four people can mingle if two of them are vaccinated.
Fears are growing that lockdown-fatigued Koreans will simply decide to ignore the rules. According to analysis of smartphone data, traffic decreased only 0.1 percent across the country in the second week of August and rose 4.1 percent in the capital region.
Some countries that have been relatively successful in their vaccine rollout are trying to find ways of living with coronavirus rather than hunkering down until the bitter end. But in Korea the vaccination rate still stands at only 21.1 percent.
The government now believes that lockdown can be eased only if the numbers of critically ill patients and deaths go down even if infections remain high, but severe cases are approaching 400 amid the latest surge and 53 patients died in the third week of August, up 29 from a week earlier.
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