Seoul's distancing level ratchets up to Level 2 Tuesday
Starting Tuesday, meetings involving 100 people or more will be banned in the greater Seoul area as the social distancing recommendation is heightened to Level 2, the health minister announced Sunday.
“Starting Nov. 24, Level 2 social distancing measures will be enforced in the greater Seoul area and Level 1.5 measures in the Honam region [North and South Jeolla and Gwangju],” Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said in a press briefing Sunday. “We have reached these decisions because the nation needs to take pre-emptive actions to curb the current speed of outbreaks, especially as we reach the date of the national college entrance exam.”
At Level 2 social distancing, any events involving 100 people or more will be prohibited, while nightclubs and bars that allow dancing will be forced to shut down. Restaurants won’t be allowed to receive customers after 9 p.m., but takeout will be allowed. Cafes can serve takeout only at all hours. These restrictions will be enforced in Seoul, Gyeonggi and Incheon.
At Level 1.5 in North and South Jeolla and Gwangju, some facilities such as churches will be obligated to limit the number of congregants allowed into their buildings, while events involving 100 people or more can be banned.
Korea runs a five-level social distancing recommendation system — Levels 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 and 3 — with each level having different guidelines and rules. The country is divided into seven zones and different levels are recommended per zone depending on its Covid-19 numbers.
The seven zones are the Seoul metropolitan area encompassing Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi, also known as greater Seoul; the Chungcheong area of North Chungcheong and South Chungcheong; the Honam area of North Jeolla and South Jeolla; North Gyeongsang; South Gyeongsang; Gangwon; and Jeju Island.
The raising of the level from 1.5 to 2 in the greater Seoul area will go into effect just five days after the recommendation was raised from 1 to 1.5 last Thursday.
For the greater Seoul area to be upgraded from Level 1.5 to Level 2, there should have been an average of 200 patients or more in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi combined per day over a two-week period.
Whilst this did not take place, Park said that the average number of cases per day last week was 255.6 throughout the nation, more than twice that of the week before, and that the government decided to act preemptively for the sake of college entrance exam takers.
The once-a-year college entrance exam, which largely determines a student’s admittance to university in Korea, takes place on Dec. 3 this year. Over 490,000 students are to take the exam, according to the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Examination, the administrator of the test.
The heightened social distancing recommendations will be in place for the next two weeks.
Korea added 330 more Covid-19 cases Saturday, marking the fifth day in a row that daily additions have surpassed the 300-case threshold, said the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Among Korea’s 330 cases Saturday, 302 were domestic and 28 imported.
Clusters of outbreaks throughout the nation have involved schools, nursing homes and meetings of friends and families.
In Seoul, a cluster linked to a cram school specializing in preparations for the teacher certification examination in Noryangjin-dong of Dongjak District, southern Seoul, has added seven more cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its total tally to 76; a high school in Dongdaemun District in eastern Seoul added 25 cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its tally to 34; and a university in Seodaemun District, western Seoul, added five more cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its tally to 24.
In Gangwon, a nursing home for the elderly in Sokcho produced nine cases, which led to a cluster of 25 cases traced to a kids’ cafe in Yongin, Gyeonggi, as of Sunday; a nursing home for people with disabilities in Cheorwon County added eight cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its tally to 48.
In Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, a manufacturing company added 13 cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its tally to 14.
In Iksan, North Jeolla, a hospital added 12 cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its tally to 26.
In Changwon, South Gyeongsang, a meeting among friends gave rise to five additional cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its tally to 33; and another meeting among families added nine cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its total to 10.
The Health Ministry in a briefing Friday said that the nation may be coming under a third wave of infections after the first in mid-February and the second in mid-August.
With the addition of 330 on Saturday, Korea's total number of Covid-19 infections reached 30,733. A total of 101 recovered from Friday to Saturday, bringing total recoveries to 26,466. Two people died from Friday to Saturday, bringing the total deaths to 505 with a 1.64 percent death rate.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]