South Korea advises 15-day suspension of facilities as nation prepares for long battle with COVID-19

The coronavirus outbreak has created a major stir around the world claiming the lives of more than 11,000 people

South Korea advised the public of the country to close facilties and let go of socializing for the coming 15 days, maintaining its policy of voluntary social distancing but awaring the consequences if the rules are not taken seriously to slow down the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak.

The country has reported 147 cases of new infections on Saturday which jumped from the previous day's 87 and the experts mentioned the need of a long battle as concerns of the imported cases and new outbreaks around small clusters remained.

Covid-19 in South Korea

People outside a supermarket in SouthKorea
People wait outside a supermarket in South Korea to buy face masks following the coronavirus outbreak in the country. BBC News/Screenshot

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a televised address the government strongly recommended religious, sports and entertainment facilities suspend operations, and people avoid socialising and travel for the next 15 days.

If facilities do not conform to rules while operating, the government will order gatherings to disperse. "In the event of failure to comply with the administrative order, we will actively take all possible measures as stipulated by law, including the shutdown of the facilities and indemnity claims," Chung said.

Saturday's new cases bring the country's total to 8,799. The cumulative number of deaths associated with the virus also rose to 104. The daily tally marked the 10th day in a row that the country has posted new infections in the mid-100s or below, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). South Korea has seen a downward trend in new cases from the peak of 909 cases reported on February 29.

109 out of 147 were from Daegu

Out of the 147 new cases, 109 were from South Korea's fourth-largest city, Daegu, and the adjoining North Gyeongsang Province, where 86 percent of all South Korean cases have been so far. More than 165 cases in the region were spread in and from hospitals for the elderly, KCDC data showed. But other regions saw increases as well, including 15 new cases in Seoul and six detected while entering the country from abroad.

"You may feel that the current situation has improved a lot compared to the past, but... we continue to see group infection, inflows from foreign countries, mass outbreaks at various workplaces," Yoon Tae-ho, director general for public health policy, said at a briefing.

Yoon cited experts as saying that more arrangements in structural social distancing and medical systems are needed to "prepare for a long battle" as coronavirus spreads globally, but said South Korea has not considered extreme forms of travel restrictions that other countries have taken.

Prime Minister Chung said earlier on Saturday up to 3.8 trillion won ($3.03 billion) in disaster management funds may be used for small businesses and disadvantaged people specifically for coronavirus-related difficulties. South Korea will hold a general election on April 15.

(With agency inputs)

Related topics : Coronavirus