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South Korea tightening virus restrictions on Seoul

South Korea tightening virus restrictions on Seoul
© Twitter

South Korean officials this weekend announced new, tighter lockdown rules for the greater Seoul area as daily coronavirus cases spike in the country.

The surge in cases, which include five days of more than 300 new infections, is “extremely grave and serious,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Park added that officials have identified at least 62 virus clusters in recent weeks.

Park said the new rules, which take effect Tuesday and will be in place for the two weeks, will include the closure of nightclubs and the prohibition of late-night dine-in restaurant service. Athletic events will only be open at 10 percent of venue capacity, and drinking or eating will also be banned inside of cafes and gyms.

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South Korea, which kept its infection rates among the lowest of any country in the spring, has seen a pronounced increase since it rolled back most of its restrictions in October to reopen nightclubs and bars. The country reported 330 new cases on Sunday for a national total of 30,733. More than 500 people in the country have died from the virus.

The announcement comes a day after officials were reported to be considering new measures. The Korean Society of Infectious Diseases warned Friday that without them, the country could surpass 1,000 cases daily.

“COVID-19 transmissions are occurring in large numbers simultaneously across the country, and in some regions, the pace of infections has already overwhelmed local capacities for contact tracing,” the medical group said in a statement.

In addition to the Seoul area, officials have reported outbreaks in several other high-population urban centers like Asan, Daejeon, Gwangju and Busan.

“Our anti-coronavirus efforts are facing a crisis, and the situation is particularly serious in the Seoul metropolitan area,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said last week. “The heightened curbs would cause greater inconvenience in our daily lives ... but we all know from our experiences that there would be an even bigger crisis if we don’t act now,” he said.