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Seoul 'shuts down'; complaints of people without masks spike after mask rule in Seoul

Seoul imposes 'week of standstill' to fight spread of COVID-19

The city of Seoul on Sunday designated this week as a "week of standstill" for nearly 10 million citizens in its latest measure to fight the spread of the new coronavirus in the capital area.

During the "10 Million Citizen Standstill Week," which runs from Sunday to next Sunday, citizens are advised to remain at home and stay away from social gatherings as much as possible, Seo Jeong-hyup, the city's acting mayor, said in an online press briefing.

"This is a time of burden sharing. ... Over the next week starting today, I ask you to thoroughly abide by quarantine requirements with a resolution to almost sacrifice your everyday routines," the acting mayor said.

If the virus' rapid spread is not contained now, the economy could face a terrible situation, he said, pleading with citizens to join the city's prevention efforts.

As the country's daily tally of new COVID-19 cases has been in the triple digits for nearly two weeks, the government toughened its social distancing requirements last week, restricting the business hours of restaurants, bakeries and franchise cafes in Seoul and the broader capital areas.

These restrictions took effect Sunday and will last until next Sunday.

"In line with the government's stricter social distancing requirements ... the city of Seoul plans to work to curb nighttime gatherings and eating out by citizens (during the designated week)," Seo noted.

The city will put its special focus on social gatherings by young people after people aged between 20-40 accounted for 38.5 percent of all COVID-19 cases confirmed in the past week.

On Sunday, South Korea reported 299 new COVID-19 cases, with 203 identified in the greater Seoul area, raising the total caseload to 19,699, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

In additional preventive measures, the city will also reduce the operations of late-night bus services for a week, starting Monday.

Under the decision, bus services after 9 p.m., involving the city's 325 bus routes, will be cut by about 20 percent. This, however, does not include services at the city's 20 most crowded routes, it said. (Yonhap)

Seoul 'shuts down' in bid to blunt COVID-19

Seoul will go into a partial lockdown for a week in an attempt to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading from the capital to the rest of the country, the city office said Sunday.

Acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jung-hyup said in a regular briefing that the city will be “put on hold” until Sept. 6 before the coronavirus situation unfolds into “an even worse economic disaster.”

As the numbers jump back to first-wave levels in recent weeks, with Seoul at the center this time, the government on Friday decided to impose physical distancing measures of unprecedented intensity.

Under the new guidance, only takeout orders are allowed at coffee chains. For restaurants, dining in is prohibited after 9 p.m. Private tutoring services cannot have classes larger than 10 people. Indoor sports facilities such as gyms, pool clubs and bowling alleys cannot operate at all.

Visitors to government-designated high-risk locations are required to submit their personal details with QR code-based IDs generated through a smartphone app.

These strict measures are set to last until Sept. 6. If transmissions do not subside by that point, they could be extended further.

Greater Seoul now represents 39 percent of all cases tied to community spread at 6,683 cases. This is fewer than 300 cases behind the 6,974 cases registered in Daegu -- the country’s former epicenter in the initial peak some six months ago.

Korea reported 299 more novel coronavirus cases -- 283 locally transmitted and 16 imported -- on Sunday, bringing the nationwide total to 19,699. A large majority of the newly confirmed local cases were found in the Seoul area, 203.

On top of the strict distancing guidance, a mask mandate has been enforced in most parts of the country starting Aug. 24, including Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Sejong and Jeju. Wearing face masks is compulsory both indoors and outdoors save for certain circumstances such as when eating or drinking.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Sunday that more patients may fall seriously sick in the coming week, as a high proportion of newly diagnosed patients are older.

The state health agency said the number of severe and critical cases of COVID-19 saw a 392 percent rise in the last 15 days. So far, 323 people have died with COVID-19, with 70 patients currently under critical care. All 18 people who died from the disease during that period were 60 or older.

Health authorities say the recent rise in the fatality rate is attributable to a higher proportion of elderly people within church communities, which have been linked to some of the larger coronavirus clusters in the country.

The number of cases related to the Sarang Jeil Church in Seongbuk, a northern Seoul district, recorded 1,018 as of Saturday. Since a first case was found there on Aug. 13, some 2,000 members of the church still remain unreachable and untested, health authorities said.

Health authorities said they will be adding more beds to combat an imminent shortage.

In the capital area, 75.2 percent of all coronavirus beds had been filled as of Sunday, data showed. The Seoul City government said at least 220 beds will be added at two hospitals in the city in the coming week in addition to a 1,000-bed-capacity outpatient treatment center for people with mild cases.

“With the ramped-up efforts to secure beds, the number of available beds is expected to at least double in the first half of September,” said Seo, the acting mayor.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

Complaints of people without masks spike after mask rule in Seoul

Reports to the police over people not wearing masks have surged seventeenfold after the Seoul city government mandated face masks in an anti-virus measure, data showed Monday.

Reports on people without masks totaled 1,280 cases, or an average of 256 cases per day, between Monday and Friday last week, according to the data provided by a counter-virus team at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

This is 17 times bigger than the average daily figure of 15 reported between May 26 and Aug. 23.

Joining other local governments like Gyeonggi and North Chungcheong provinces, the Seoul city government started mandating face masks last Monday.

Under the move, all Seoul residents and visitors to the city are required to wear masks in indoor areas, as well as crowded outdoor venues, with the exception of taking them off for meals.

Under existing law, however, those who do not wear masks are not fined or punished. A revised law that approves fines of up to 100,000 won ($84) is set to go into effect on Oct. 13.

Of the reports, police said they have handled 41 cases that were judged to be crimes. Thirty-one people have been booked, including two who were arrested, and 10 were fined.

Some of those who were apprehended were alleged to have verbally or physically abused taxi or bus drivers or workers at eateries and bath facilities who asked them to put on their masks.

"We will support the validity of the mask rule by sternly dealing with (people) who do not wear masks and cause public harm by hurting other people or disrupting operations (at businesses)," a police official said.

South Korea reported 248 new coronavirus cases Monday, raising the total caseload to 19,947, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). It reported its first case in January. (Yonhap)

Source: The Korea Herald (1, 2, 3)
Tags: health, social issues

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