South Korea mulls renewal of social distancing restrictions after spike in coronavirus cases

South Korea mulls renewal of social distancing restrictions after spike in coronavirus cases
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South Korea is considering reimposing some social distancing restrictions after the government announced a spike in new coronavirus cases Wednesday.

Seoul announced 40 new cases Wednesday, the biggest single-day increase in nearly 50 days, as the country finally relaxed restrictions enough to allow millions of children to return to school. The vast majority of the cases were in the Seoul area, where high-traffic indoor spaces like nightclubs and karaoke rooms reopened last month.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said warmer weather and widespread resumption of some previously restricted activities would complicate contact tracing, possibly leaving social distancing as the only alternative, according to The Associated Press.


“We will do our best to trace contacts and implement preventive measures, but there’s a limit to such efforts,” said Eun-kyeong.

“Young people have a very broad range of activity, so at the point of diagnosis, there’s already a lot of exposure. ... The number of people or locations we have to trace are increasing geometrically,” he added.

Seoul and other Korean population centers have reshuttered thousands of entertainment venues and bars since cases crept back up, according to the AP.

The recurrence comes after South Korea was one of the countries least devastated by the pandemic. Public health experts say the country was able to curb the effects of the virus after implementing an aggressive testing and contact tracing regimen.

Schools in the country partially reopened last week, with 32 new cases reported last Wednesday, the first time in over a week cases surpassed 30.

“I am here to see students returning to school while praying that there won’t be any coronavirus patients among our students in 2,200 schools,” Cho Hee-yeon, the education superintendent in Seoul, told reporters last week.

As of Wednesday South Korea has seen about 11,300 cases of the virus and a total of 269 deaths.