After a significant rise in coronavirus infections, South Korea is tightening restrictions in Seoul and its outskirts again, the country's health minister has announced after a crisis meeting chaired by Premier Chung Sye Kyun.
Public institutions including museums, theatres and multifunctional halls in the greater Seoul area would again be shut down immediately until June 14, Park Neung Hoo said. "The next two weeks are critical," he said on Thursday.
South Korea had already begun lifting the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus.
However, authorities were alerted recently to a new local cluster of infections, this time in the distribution centre of a mail order company in the Seoul suburb of Bucheon. By Thursday morning, more than 80 cases had been confirmed among employees and people they had been in contact with. More than 4000 people were tested.
It was likely that the outbreak had already spread to the communities, Park said. He called on people to avoid gatherings as much as possible over the next two weeks.
In the capital Seoul, an accumulation of infections among clubgoers this month had already triggered fears of a new wave of mass infections. About half of the country's 51.6 million inhabitants live in the greater Seoul area.
So far, the government hasn't considered closing schools again, which have been gradually reopening nationwide since last week.
Health authorities had recorded 79 new coronavirus infections nationwide the day before, the highest increase in almost two months, lifting the total number of infections to 11,344.
Australian Associated Press