From Monday, South Korea will impose the highest level of social distancing restrictions (level 4) in its capital Seoul and other neighbouring areas with a view to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). South Korea, which is currently witnessing the fourth wave of the pandemic, has so far recorded 1,69,146 cases and 2,044 deaths due to the viral disease.
According to the new regulations, private social gatherings of three or more people will be prohibited after 6pm, churches and night clubs will be closed, and visitors will not be allowed at hospitals and nursing homes. All types of rallies have been banned and only family members can attend funerals and marriages.
On Sunday, 1,100 people tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). This is the sixth consecutive day that the daily infections were above the 1,000 mark. However, the fourth wave of the pandemic has brought fewer serious cases and deaths than the earlier ones and many senior citizens along with vulnerable people have been vaccinated, news agency Reuters reported.
On the other hand, health authorities and experts have warned the situation might worsen as a rising number of young patients have not been vaccinated yet and the threat of the highly infectious Delta variant is still looming.
A report by the Washington Post on July 9 said that during the earlier period of the pandemic, South Korea had received global recognition for controlling the viral disease by carrying out robust testing and contract tracing and while also avoiding a strict countrywide lockdown.
The report added that authorities might have given an incorrect signal to the public with the “premature lifting” of Covid-related restrictions. Choi Jae-wook, a medical professor at the Korea University in Seoul, told the Washington Post that as the delta variant of Covid-19 is spreading globally, authorities should have tightened and not eased the restrictions.
The fourth level of social distancing restrictions starting Monday has also put the country’s industrial sector into an ‘emergency mode’. Industries are now focusing on reducing cases among their employees by expanding the spectrum of telework, which in simple terms means working from home, and have also upgraded their in-house quarantine guidelines, according to news agency ANI. Samsung has asked its employees to refrain from visiting karaoke, nightclubs and bars and get tested for Covid-19 before returning to work if they visited such places. LG Electronics, meanwhile, is imposing a total ban on business trips, training and external meetings.
(With inputs from agencies, The Washington Post)