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(LEAD) S. Korea sees second wave of virus as 'inevitable,' braces for 'new normal'

All News 22:02 May 07, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info, quote in paras 9-10; Minor edits)

SEOUL, May 7 (Yonhap) -- A second wave of new coronavirus infections appears "inevitable," a health official said Thursday, as South Korea braces for a "new normal" with the launch of post-social distancing life amid a slowdown in the number of new cases.

Son Young-rae, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, made the remark during a briefing for foreign media, stressing the importance of keeping the number of infections under control through active tracing and daily anti-virus efforts.

"It won't be easy to end the wave of COVID-19 until a vaccine or medicine is developed. We'll have to think that a second wave is almost inevitable," Son said during the briefing broadcast live online. "What are important are the efforts to keep the number of new infections under control at an appropriate level, while considering them as a natural condition."

The remark came one day after South Korea officially shifted to "everyday life quarantine" in line with the flattening of the country's virus curve, following more than two months of "intensive social distancing."

South Korea reported four more cases of the new coronavirus Thursday, bringing the nation's total infections to 10,810, including 256 deaths.

Under the new campaign, South Koreans are allowed to go back to their daily routines while adhering to basic guidelines to prevent infections. Schools will also open in phases starting next week.

Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director general of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said a second wave, if it comes, is most likely in the winter, though noting that it could come at any time in the coming months.

"As this everyday life quarantine campaign is a new path for us ... we might have some sporadic new infections as we go through trial and error, but we will go ahead revising and supplementing it as we go," Kwon said during the briefing.

Asked to comment on differences in the virus response between South Korea and the United States, Kwon cited South Korea's health insurance system and experience from the MERS incident in 2015.

"Every country has different demographic, geographic traits, and they all have various socioeconomic, cultural backgrounds, so I don't think one country's experience could be the same with another's," Son said. "But for every country, solidarity and collaboration of all members of society is very important to deal with it."

The briefing took place remotely with some 40 reporters from 15 countries asking questions in real time via an online messaging platform.

People take a walk at a lake park in Seoul on May 6, 2020, as people's everyday lives cautiously returned to normal based on self-disciplined quarantining amid the slowing of the COVID-19 outbreak. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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