S.Korea to expand tighter social-distancing campaign nationwide amid surging COVID-19 cases
Published: Aug 22, 2020 03:50 PM

Staff disinfect the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul on Friday. South Korea reported 288 new cases of COVID-19 as of midnight on Wednesday, and the latest outbreak was fanned out from a church in the capital, raising fears of a “nationwide epidemic.” Photo: VCG

South Korea will expand its tighter social-distancing campaign nationwide from Sunday amid the surging number of newly-confirmed COVID-19 cases in recent days.

South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a press briefing Saturday that the social-distancing guidelines will be raised by one notch to Level 2 across the country on Aug. 23.

The government adopted the level-2 guidelines of the three-tier system only in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province from Aug. 16, but it decided to expand it to the whole country amid the recent surge in virus infections.

South Korea reported 332 more cases on Saturday, raising the combined number of infections to 17,002.

The daily caseload soared in triple digits for nine straight days, topping 300 for two days in a row. It was the highest in more than five months since March 8.

The number of confirmed cases for the past nine days reached 2,232 due to infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province traceable to church services of Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul and the massive rally held in central Seoul on Aug. 15 by conservative voters and politicians.

Of the new cases, 127 were Seoul residents and 91 were people residing in Gyeonggi province.

Under the level-2 social-distancing guidelines, the indoor gatherings of over 50 people and the outdoor events of over 100 people will be banned, while high-risk facilities such as karaoke rooms, clubs and PC gaming cafes will be prohibited from doing businesses.

All the sports events will be conducted without an audience, and offline church services will be banned. Schools in areas that reported cluster infections will be required to switch to online classes from Aug. 26.

School attendance caps will be limited to one-third of capacity in kindergartens, primary and middle schools, with the cap limited to two-thirds of capacity in high schools.

Crowded places, such as buffet at wedding venues, restaurants and public sauna, will be required to follow tighter regulations, including the recording of all visitors. All beaches across the country will be closed from midnight.