Korea to Go into Lockdown for Rest of Year

  • By Yang Ji-ho, Yang Seung-joo

    December 07, 2020 09:15

    The government said Sunday that Korea will go back into nationwide lockdown for three weeks starting on Tuesday midnight. The decision comes after previous restrictions failed to curb a winter resurgence of infections.

    Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters on Sunday, "Coronavirus infections in the greater Seoul area are becoming widespread and we're on the brink of a nationwide resurgence. This is our last line of defense before a complete lockdown."

    The government tightened social distancing in the Seoul area on Nov. 24 in the hope that fresh infections would decline, but 631 new cases were reported on Sunday morning and another 615 cases as of Monday morning. So far numbers had been lower at the weekend because fewer people got tested, but this was the highest number of daily infections since a major outbreak in the southeastern city of Daegu in March.

    The daily tally has exceeded 500 since Dec. 2 with more than 400 in the greater Seoul area. As a result, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in the Seoul metropolitan area has surpassed 10,000. The number of patients in serious condition surged from 76 to 125 in just a week, and now only 20 hospital beds for them are left in the Seoul area.

    Students leave after an essay test as part of the university entrance exam at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul on Sunday.

    The lockdown means private crammers, karaoke bars and indoor sports facilities and churches will close down, although small places of worship with congregations of less than 20 can stay open. Sports events will again be held without spectators, and weddings and funerals must keep the number of guests below 50.

    Movie theaters, computer game parlors and other confined places must close at 9 p.m. Restaurants can only serve take-out meals and deliveries after 9 p.m., while coffee shops can only serve take-out drinks all day.

    The government said the lockdown will continue through Christmas. Health officials are in talks with religious groups to ensure proper quarantine measures are observed during the holiday season.

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