July 22, 2021 09:50
The current surge in coronavirus infections shows no sign of abating despite tougher lockdown being extended to some provinces. Infections are nearing 2,000 a day across the country.
The highly infectious Delta variant is spreading rapidly as the summer holidays loom. Since July 12, when lockdown was tightened in the Seoul metropolitan region, traffic there declined five percent, but outside the region it increased 0.9 percent as many people fled the capital, and that pattern is expected to worsen as the peak summer season approaches.
On Jeju Island, a main holiday destination, infections rose from nine on July 15 to 34 on Wednesday, and in the southern port city of Busan daily cases rose from 63 to 100. The eastern port city of Gangneung has seen consecutive days of double-digit infections since July 16.
Lockdown fatigue is also resulting in refusals to obey the rules.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum in a daily briefing Wednesday said late July and early August are the "critical moment" of the latest wave and urged people to remain cautious.
Kim Woo-joo at Korea University Guro Hospital said, "The government sent the wrong signal late last month with plans to ease lockdown, and given the slow progress of vaccination, daily infections could rise to 3,000-4,000 next month."
Health authorities claim the effects of tightened lockdown will become apparent soon. But critics say more needs to be done. Chun Eun-mi at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital said, "To prevent the spread of the Delta variant, additional measures are needed, such as advising businesses to expand working from home so there is less contact in the daytime as well."
The Health Ministry will monitor the rate of spread this week before deciding whether to tighten rules even further.
Meanwhile, another daily record of 1,842 new infections was reported as of Thursday morning, but they include 270 crew from the Navy's Cheonghae anti-piracy unit who were airlifted home.
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