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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 20)

All News 06:56 April 20, 2020

Partial easing of restrictions
It is still necessary to practice social distancing

The country's daily new cases of COVID-19 fell to a single digit Sunday for the first time in about two months, raising hope for the people getting back to normal life. But it is still too early to lower our guard against the coronavirus pandemic.

That is why Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has decided to maintain the ongoing social distancing campaign at least until May 5 to cope with a potential second wave of infections. But Chung announced a plan to ease some restrictions on large gatherings including religious activities.

Under the eased guidelines, the health authorities have lifted a recommended ban on the operation of religious facilities, cram schools, gyms and bars. However, the government will continue to enforce strict disinfection and quarantine rules on those facilities.

Chung also said that outdoor pubic facilities such as forest lodges will be open soon, adding that outdoor sporting events will be resumed as long as they are held safely without spectators. He also said the government will consider reopening schools if the situation changes for the better.

The eased measures reflect the fact that the daily number of reported infections has conspicuously slowed down. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the country reported eight new cases of the virus, bringing the total cases to 10,661 with the death toll rising to 234. The figure indicates that South Korea has made much progress in checking the spread of the highly contagious virus.

The single-digit increase was the first of its kind since Feb. 28. The number of daily new cases peaked at 909 on Feb. 29 when COVID-19 spread rapidly among members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu. However, the virus began to lose its strength early this month. The new infections fell to the level of 20 to 30 for several days from March 9. Then the number went further down below 20 for five days until March 17 and finally below 10 Sunday.

In this situation, the government once floated the idea of easing or lifting the social distancing rules in order to allow the people to get back to normal life. But it has no other choice but to maintain the rules until May 5 to better protect the public from a potential resurgence of COVID-19. This move is a realistic decision in the face of the unprecedented health crisis.

Chung, however, said it would be possible to ease the social distancing rules from May 6 if the country contains the spread of the virus successfully. We have to ensure the restrictions and inconveniences remain in place for the time being until the virus curve is flattened. Early lifting will only put our lives at risk.

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