South Korea’s vice health minister has urged vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the new coronavirus.
Kim Gang-lip expressed concerns over loosened attitudes toward social distancing that he says puts the country at potential risk of an infection “explosion” similar to Europe and the United States.
His warning on Monday came after the country reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus, the smallest daily jump since Feb. 20. Infections have continued to wane in the worst-hit city of Daegu, where 6,781 of the country’s 10,284 cases have been reported.
However, there’s alarm over a steady rise in infections linked to international arrivals as students and other South Korean nationals flock back from the West amid broadening outbreaks and suspended school years. This has inflated the caseload in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live, prompting Gyeonggi province governor Lee Jae-myung to warn last week that an “explosion in infections is almost certain.”
“There’s still danger that an explosion in local transmissions which we have been seeing in Europe and the United States can happen in our society at any time, which would collapse our hospital system and spike death rates,” Kim said.
Kim pleaded for people to stay at home, citing smartphone data that showed increased crowds in Seoul’s public parks and leisure districts over the past two weeks. While South Korea’s government has shut schools and issued social-distancing guidelines for the public, it has not enforced lockdowns or ordered unessential businesses to close.