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New virus cases under 1,000 for 2nd day, private gatherings to be banned from Wednesday

KOREA (Korea herald/ANN) -- South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases fell below 1,000 for the second consecutive day Tuesday, but the nation again recorded its highest daily death toll as health authorities tightened virus curbs to slow the spread of the virus.
The country added 869 more COVID-19 cases, including 824 local infections, raising the total caseload to 51,460, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The tally marked a decline from 926 cases Monday, 1,097 cases Sunday, 1,053 Saturday and 1,062 Friday.

Medical staff transport a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Seoul on Monday.     --Photo Yonhap

Twenty-four people died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 722. It was the second day in a row that the nation reported its highest daily death total. The fatality rate was 1.4 percent.
With one-day virus caseloads running at all-time highs last week, health authorities were considering whether to raise the country’s social distancing guidelines to Level 3, the highest in its five-tier scheme.
However, authorities said they are aiming to contain the current wave of the pandemic without raising virus curbs to Level 3 on concerns over impacts on the economy.
Instead of applying the potential lockdown measure that would deal a severe blow to millions of small merchants, health authorities deployed “targeted” virus curbs.
Starting Wednesday, the greater Seoul area will ban gatherings of five or more people.
Gatherings of more than four people will be banned at restaurants in the greater Seoul area beginning Wednesday. A restaurant owner and customer will face a fine of up to 3 million won (US$2,710) and up to 100,000 won, respectively, in case they are found to have violated the ban.
Across the nation, 16 ski resorts, 35 ice rinks and other winter tourist venues, including Jeongdongjin Beach in Gangwon Province that is one of the most popular beaches for watching the sunrise on New Year’s Day, were ordered to be closed from Wednesday until January 3.
Lodging facilities were ordered to open at 50 percent capacity, KDCA officials said.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the new round of restrictions is aimed at containing the spread of the virus during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday seasons.
South Korean authorities have expanded anonymous testing in the greater Seoul area since Dec. 14 to try to find people who are asymptomatic and infected with COVID-19. A total of 609 infections, including 131 cases in the past 24 hours, have been confirmed through such testing so far, the KDCA said.
South Korea has been applying Level 2.5 social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area, home to half of its 51.6 million population, and Level 2 rules in the rest of the country. Starting Wednesday, Level 2.5 rules will be applied for all religious facilities nationwide.
Chains of cluster infections at facilities that include nursing homes and churches, and through private gatherings, continued to pop up.


(Latest Update Deceember 23, 2020)

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