South Korean authorities have announced that gatherings of more than five people will be banned in the capital region to suppress what they are calling an “explosive” surge in coronavirus infections.
The Seoul region is home to half of South Korea’s 51 million people and has been at the centre of a recent viral resurgence. The country averaged about 960 new virus cases every day in the past week, more than 70% of them in the Seoul metropolitan area, reports the Associated Press.
Acting Seoul mayor Seo Jung-hyup said on Monday that the ban will apply to all types of gatherings including year-end parties, office dinners, birthday parties and picnics. Only weddings and funerals can follow the current rule of up to 50 people.
The mayor said the new restrictions will take effect from Wednesday and last until Jan 3 in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi province.
Seo said he knows the ban is “harsh” but stresses the current viral spread cannot be slowed without preventing transmissions among relatives and company colleagues.
Seoul could face a complete lockdown if the current surge isn’t contained, he said.
Earlier on Monday, South Korea reported 24 more virus-related deaths in the country’s highest daily fatalities since the pandemic began. The government added a total of 926 new cases, taking the country’s total to 50,591 including nearly 700 deaths.