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South Korea Examines Stricter Coronavirus Rules as Infections Stay High

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SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea will consider tightening some social distance rules in Seoul and surrounding areas, its prime minister said on Sunday after the country reported more than 300 new coronavirus cases for the fifth day in a row.

Photograph Photograph: Pedestrians wearing masks walk in tents as it rains amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in central Seoul, South Korea, November 19, 2020. REUTERS / Heo Ran

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting that officials would discuss whether to enforce stricter distancing rules for the Seoul area as well as the country’s southwestern region, the Yonhap news agency reported.

According to the country coronavirus guidelines, the level of restriction is determined by certain standards, such as a significant increase in a short time, or when the national daily account exceeds 300 for more than a week.

But Chung said the government is considering shifting some areas to a higher level of social distance before the country sees a full week with more than 300 cases a day.

We were at a critical juncture to deal with a large number of infections across the country, Chung said.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 330 new daily cases of coronavirus since midnight Saturday, a drop from 386 reported the day before, a level not seen since August.

On Saturday, a KDCA official said the country could face a major nationwide outbreak surpassing the previous two waves of infections if it fails to block the current spread.

Last week South Korea tightened prevention guidelines ahead of the highly competitive annual college entrance exams scheduled for Dec. 3, and Chung has called for all social gatherings to be canceled.

Bars, nightclubs, religious services and sporting events continue to be allowed with restrictions on attendance, but this may change if officials decide the next level of social distance measures.

South Korea has used an aggressive reconnaissance, testing and quarantine effort to destroy the blasts without imposing blockades. But the country has been followed by a steady number of minor infections, bringing the total number of cases to 30,733 with 505 deaths.

Reporting by Josh Smith; supplementary reporting by Sangmi Cha; edited by Richard Pullin

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