South Korea issued new guidelines surrounding face-mask-wearing in its capital city, Seoul, as the country faces coronavirus battle anew.
Seoul, South Korea’s densely populated capital, has now made face mask mandatory in both indoor and outdoor spaces in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement came following the city’s alarming increase in new COVID-19 cases.
Seoul raises social distancing level to phase three
On Monday, August 14, Asia’s fourth-largest economy ordered South Koreans residing in Seoul to use face masks in indoor, as well as outdoor, public places. The national government highly recommends the use of face coverings since its first outbreak in Daegu, but officials only made it compulsory in public transit and taxis.
South Korea has been experiencing a spike in fresh coronavirus infections for more than a week now, mainly came from Seoul. On Sunday, the country recorded 266 new cases, making its total COVID-19 cases up to 17, 655, with 309 deaths.
“The raise to phase three is by no means an easy option,” President Moon Jae-in reiterated amid his laments over the need to raise Seoul’s social distancing level with much stricter measures.
Under phase three, businesses and schools would need to shut down too—yet again, a new challenge that will leave more damage to South Korea’s economy.
But before the announcement of much tighter protocols, the country has already implemented second-tier social distancing rules in all its 17 regions. Under it, church gatherings are prohibited. Cybercafes, buffets, and nightclubs are closed under the said phase too.
Concern over “silent spreaders”
South Korea was praised for its successful containment of the virus since its first outbreak in Daegu, thanks to its aggressive contact-tracing and testing.
However, Yoon Tae-Ho, South Korea’s health ministry official, warned about the so-called “silent spreaders” in its latest briefing. He explained that there is nearly 20% (in recent cases) of coronavirus transmission routes that contact tracers are unable to track down.
“If we fail to flatten the curve this week, we believe we will be faced with a very important crisis, that the virus will spread to the entire nation,” Yoon warned, per Reuters.
Following that, he urged the public to stay home and avoid unnecessary trips.
As per Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), 84% out of the new COVID-19 infections are from Seoul. The country’s average daily infections have reached 162.1 as well and 13 times more than the average in the past two weeks.