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South Korea: Covid-19 crisis looms large with sharp rise in cases 

“If the situation worsens, measures taken to strengthen social distancing will wreak unspeakable havoc on our economy. Employment will also crater, bringing immense hardship to people’s lives. We must not allow one lax moment to undo all of our efforts. The Government will sternly deal with the flouting of epidemic prevention guidelines or noncompliance.” -Moon Jae In, President of South Korea on the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the country.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county continues to surpass 300 per day, setting off alarmbells across the government machinery. An additional 397 new virus cases were reported on Sunday, the highest number since March 7.  Korean President Moon Jae In has called the situation “the greatest crisis since Korea’s first COVID-19 outbreak”.

Authorities in the country have reimposed social distancing protocols, including restrictions on parties, karaoke bars, buffets, nightclubs, cyber cafes and other big gatherings. The Level 2 social distancing norms have been invoked outside the wider Seoul area starting Sunday. Indoor meetings of more than 50 people and open-air gatherings of over 100 people are banned in principle. The government has asked people to wear masks both indoors and outdoors in the capital city. After the sudden spike in Covid cases nearly 2,000 schools had suspended classes in the city and surrounding areas. A whooping 2,893 new cases across the country have been recorded in just last 11 days.

The Korean President held an urgent meeting of the senior members of his government to take stock of the situation. In the pictures, everyone present at the high-level meeting was seen wearing masks and transparent plastic dividers being used to foolproof the seating arrangements. 

Moon Jae in has asked to press in a quick, preemptive and resolute response to the emerging crisis, which includes complying strictly with prohibitory orders in those areas where gatherings are banned. He has asked to take strict legal action against rogue elements defying the law, going a step further and treating them as criminals.   
The Korean President said, “Preventing this kind of infectious disease or responding to disasters and catastrophes goes beyond the realm of human rights issues. As these are directly related to the lives and safety of the entire population, the state should employ its authority fully to protect citizens.”

The capital city Seoul is at the center of this crisis. A half of the country’s entire population lives in and around this city in very densely populated areas. Moreover, there are many who need to travel back and forth between Seoul and provincial areas every day. It is anticipated that if the frontlines of epidemic prevention and control collapse in Seoul, defensive lines everywhere around the country can be breached all at once undoing months of hard work in keeping the pandemic under control. With a population of 50 million people, the country has recorded about 17,399 infections and 309 fatalities over the last few months owing to the pandemic.

(Report By Abhishek Jha)

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