South Korea Mulls Steps As New Virus Cases Rise

South Korea has reported 386 new cases of coronavirus in a re-emergence that could cause the authorities to re-impose tighter social distance limits after relaxing them in October in order to stimulate a faltering economy.

The estimates released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday increased the country's overall number of reported cases to 30,403, including 503 deaths, report AP.

More than 270 of the recent cases have come from the metropolitan area of Seoul, where health officials have failed to monitor infections in colleges, private tutoring academies and religious establishments.

Infections have also been identified in other major cities, including Busan, Daejeon, Gwangju and Asan.

So far, South Korea has managed to weather the pandemic without massive lockdowns, focusing instead on an active test-and-quarantine program and mask-wearing.

Officials eased the gap controls to the lowest level in October, encouraging high-risk establishments such as nightclubs and karaoke bars to be reopened and fans to flock to professional sports.

However the Korean Society of Infectious Diseases said Friday that more than 1,000 new infections could be registered every day in a week or two if social distance initiatives are not effectively improved.

“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 doctors’ group said.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Japan is scaling back on the government-backed “GoTo” campaign to encourage travel and dining out, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached a record for the third day straight on Saturday, at 2,418. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the decision at a government panel on coronavirus pandemic measures. Stressing the need for “utmost caution,” he said the campaign’s travel discounts will no longer apply to hard-hit areas, and discounts on eating out will end temporarily. Japan has never had a total lockdown. It has had fewer than 2,000 deaths so far related to the coronavirus. But worries have been growing about a spike in infections over the three-day weekend. Monday is Labor Thanksgiving, a national holiday.

— India reported 46,232 new cases, with the situation particularly alarming in New Delhi. Intensive care wards and the capital’s main crematorium are near capacity, and health officials this week found the prevalence of infections in markets much higher than expected. The city has added an average of 6,700 cases each day in recent weeks. The Health Ministry on Saturday also registered 564 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 132,726. India hit a grim milestone Friday, passing 9 million infections, the second-most behind the US.

— China is starting mass testing on 3 million people in a section of the northern city of Tianjin and has tested 4,015 others in a hospital in Shanghai after the discovery of a pair of cases there. The National Health Commission recorded seven new domestically transmitted cases Saturday, including five in Tianjin and two in Shanghai. Tianjin on Friday reported community transmission involving four different individuals and another case. In response, local authorities sealed off the residential community where the people lived as well as a hospital and a kindergarten. On Saturday, authorities began testing all residents in the Binhai district of Tianjin, according to the local government’s social media page. Authorities in Shanghai sealed off a hospital after a husband and wife tested positive for the virus Friday night. China’s total number of confirmed cases is now 86,414.

— After more than three weeks with no new infections or deaths in Victoria, the attention in Australia has moved to the neighboring state of South Australia. South Australia Prime Minister Steven Marshall said there were no new incidents of group transmission in the state capital of Adelaide on Saturday. There have been 26 new incidents in the northern suburb of Adelaide, resulting in a lockout that will end at midnight on Saturday, but a variety of steps will continue to restrict queues at venues, including pubs and restaurants.


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