The government has decided to adopt a new social distancing scheme as it prepares to combat the new coronavirus pandemic more effectively in the long term.
Korea reported 30 local infections and 12 new arrivals on Monday, raising the cumulative caseload to 12,757 as of midnight Sunday.
Twenty-one of the 30 locally transmitted cases occurred in the densely populated greater Seoul area where around half of the country's 50-million population lives. The accumulated number of Seoul has reached 1,305, the third-highest following Daegu’s 6,906 and North Gyeongsang Province’s 1,388.
The health authorities also confirmed sporadic outbreaks throughout the country, as shown by three new cases in Gwangju, two new cases each in Daejeon and Daegu, one new case each in Busan and North Jeolla Province.
Monday’s figure marked a decrease from new cases during the weekend as the nation identified 51 and 62 additional cases on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The increase in new confirmed cases is also in line with the global trend of the virus spiking back recently. The total global virus caseload topped 10 million, and the death toll reached 500,000 on Sunday.
With the virus outbreak persistent both locally and globally, the government said that it would implement a new three-level social distancing system depending on the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The country currently recommends Level 1 social distancing, the lowest stage implemented when the number of virus cases is manageable by the nation's medical system. Health authorities will increase the scheme to Level 2 distancing measures if daily infections exceed 50 to 100 for two weeks, and Level 3 measures if daily infections increase over 100.
Explicitly, it will ban all private and public indoor meetings of 50 or more and outdoor meetings of over 100 under the Level 2 scheme, while prohibiting all meetings of 10 people or more, and all students’ school attendance under the Level 3 scheme.
The quarantine authorities are also seeking measures to ensure that the quarantine guidelines are strictly observed during small meetings, including religious worship services and events.
The government recently considered designating churches as a high-risk facility, as cases traced to major churches in Seoul have been a significant source of the newly confirmed cases this month. New virus cases tied to a large Protestant church in southwestern Seoul reached 27 as of Sunday, with the authorities expecting more patients to arise.
High-risk facilities have to mandatorily comply with the quarantine rules, such as the electronic access system. If they fail to comply with the new measures, the facilities can face a fine of up to 3 million won ($2,500) or receive a ban for gathering at such facilities.
There are currently 12 high-risk facilities, including karaoke rooms, bars, indoor excursive facilities and concerts, door-to-door sales firms, buffet restaurants, and distribution centers.
"Instead of regulating churches and religious gatherings as high-risk facilities, we have instead decided to actively discuss ways to define specific targets by setting goals more strictly," Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said at a daily task force meeting. Measures will be devised, and suggestions will be given, focusing on empirical cases, he added.
Minister Park also stressed citizens to be on high alert for further Covid-19 during the summer vacation period. “If vacations are concentrated from late July to mid-August, there are concerns about a possible new nationwide spread of Covid-19,” Park said. “It is essential that the vacation period is evenly distributed.”
Since Covid-19 affects workers’ health and economic loss of their workplaces, employers must actively participate in the dispersion of summer vacation for its workers, he added.
The nation reported no additional deaths keeping the death toll at 282, while hospitals released 65 patients from quarantine after a full recovery, increasing the number of cured patients to 11,429, with 1,046 people getting treatment.
It has also tested 1,259,954 suspected patients since Jan. 3. Among them, 1,228,698 people tested negative with the other 18,499 awaiting results.
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