South Korea confirms second wave of Covid-19 as health minister warns of a ‘grave situation’ and Seoul mayor threatens to reimpose strict social distancing
- A total of 90 imported virus cases have been identified over the past week
- The country reported 17 new infections – 11 local and 6 imported – in last 24 hours
- The R rate also reached nearly 1.8 for the period between April 30 and June 11
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South Korea has confirmed a second wave of coronavirus as the health minister warns of a ‘grave situation’ in the country.
The Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said a total of 90 imported cases were identified over the past week, showing a sharp rise from the previous week’s 48.
‘The government faces a grave situation as health officials need not only to contain locally transmitted infections, but also manage imported cases,’ Park said in a government meeting on COVID-19 responses.
In a separate briefing, Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the country was now going through a second wave of the virus, following a surge in late February and March centered around the southeastern city of Daegu.
People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus pray during a service at the Chogyesa temple in South Korea today
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), reported 17 new infections – 11 local and 6 imported – in the last 24 hours, which raised the nation’s total to 12,438. The death toll remained unchanged at 280.
It comes as the mayor of South Korea’s capital fears the country is losing control over a virus resurgence and said Seoul will reimpose stronger social distancing measures if the daily jump in infections doesn’t come below an average of 30 over the next three days.
‘If Seoul gets penetrated (by the virus), the entire Republic of Korea gets penetrated,’ Park Won-soon said Monday in a televised briefing, referring to South Korea by its formal name.
A notice on precautions against the new coronavirus is displayed at a subway station in South Korea today
He also lamented what he described as complacency of citizens in social distancing, citing an increase in public transportation usage that he says has been approaching last year’s levels in recent weeks.
Citing research by health experts, Park said the country could be possibly reporting as much as 800 new cases a day a month from now if it fails to stem current trends in transmissions.
He said the basic reproduction number of virus carriers, which measures the number of infections caused by an individual, has reached nearly 1.8 for the period between April 30 and June 11. Any number above 1 indicates a growing epidemic.
The country has been reporting around 40 to 50 new cases per day since late May, mostly from the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.
South Korea was reporting around 500 new cases per day in early March but managed to control the outbreak with an active testing and contact tracing campaign.
Today the city of Daejeon, south of the capital, announced it would ban gatherings in public spaces such as museums and libraries after a number of small virus clusters were discovered.