SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea will enforce its strongest social distancing restrictions in the greater capital area starting next week as it wrestles with what appears to be the worst wave of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
The plans, which may bring Seoul’s thriving nightlife to a standstill, were announced shortly before the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported another new 1,316 cases on Wednesday, breaking the country’s previous one-day record of 1,275 set the day before.
Nearly 1,000 of the cases came from Seoul and nearby metropolitan regions, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where officials will elevate social distancing restrictions to an unprecedented “Level 4” for two weeks beginning Monday.
The measures include prohibiting private social gatherings of 3 or more people after 6 p.m., shutting down nightclubs and churches, banning visitors at hospitals and nursing homes and limiting weddings and funerals to family-only gatherings. Protests will be banned and shopping malls will have to close after 10 p.m.
The surge in infections is a worrisome development in a country where a shortage in vaccine supplies have left 70% of the population still waiting for their first shot.
The country’s caseload is now at 165,344 after adding more than 8,300 cases in July alone.
Critics say the government made things worse by pushing for a premature easing of social distancing over economic concerns.