SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA) – South Korea on Saturday recorded its second-highest daily number of COVID cases with outbreaks at a prison, nursing homes and churches continue to spike. This has pushed authorities to cancel all year-end gatherings.
The current largest cluster is at a prison in eastern Seoul, where 514 inmates and workers have been infected, prompting health authorities to test all people there. The virus likely spread easily as the prison consists of five, high-rise buildings and suffers from over-capacity, a health official said.
Ahead of Christmas and New Year holidays, the government has banned gatherings of more than four people in the greater Seoul area and closed down ski resorts, among other tourist spots.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said that it logged in 1,132 new cases on Friday.
“The virus is spreading whenever and wherever it wants,” Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told an intra-agency meeting, adding that people were also being infected at small gatherings with friends and acquaintances.
“As we stand at the crossroads of the third wave, how we stop the spread hinges on how we spend this year-end and New Year period.”
The government plans to hold a meeting on Sunday to discuss matters regarding tightening distancing rules to the toughest level for the greater Seoul area.
The new steps would shut another 1.2 million stores and allow only essential workers into offices. Curbs currently in place have closed night clubs, karaoke bars and other night entertainment venues as well as banned on-site dining after 9 p.m.
South Korea’s total infections now stand at 54,770, with 773 deaths, KDCA data showed.