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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 11)

All News 06:58 June 11, 2020

Remain on alert
Fears growing over mass infections in Seoul

The country's internationally recognized efforts against the coronavirus pandemic may be going up in smoke as the number of new COVID-19 infections is again rising. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 50 new cases Wednesday, raising the country's total to 11,902.

We have to express concern about the resurgent coronavirus infections. The number of new cases remained below 50 for five days from June 1. It once fell to as low as 35. But the figure climbed to 51 June 6 and 57 June 7.

It will be difficult to maintain eased social distancing rules, which are referred to as "everyday life quarantine," if new infections continue to go up well above the 50 threshold. That is why the health authorities should step up their fight against the pandemic. If necessary, the country must consider returning to stringent social distancing guidelines in order to check the spread of the highly contagious virus.

What is really worrisome is that most of the new cases have taken place in Seoul and the metropolitan area including Incheon City and Gyeonggi Province. This area boasts 26 million residents, accounting for 50 percent of the nation's population. So the country cannot win the fight against COVID-19 without bringing the virus under control in the capital and its surrounding area.

About 70 percent of new cases over the past one month occurred in the metropolitan region. They included 252 cases related to nightclubs in Seoul's popular nightlife district of Itaewon. Another 144 cases were traced to a distribution center run by e-commerce giant Coupang in Bucheon, just south of Seoul. In addition, 92 cases took place in small churches. At least 89 cases were linked to a door-to-door sales business, while 54 cases were traced to a table tennis club in southwestern Seoul.

Fears about mass infections have risen since the nightclub outbreak last month. The health authorities have since begun to enforce stricter disinfection and quarantine rules for entertainment facilities and other crowded places to check the spread of the virus. But they have made little progress in flattening the COVID-19 curve.

Amid the resurgent situation, the country completed its phased school reopening Monday. All 5.95 million schoolchildren, including preschoolers, are back at school after a more than three-month shutdown caused by the outbreak.

Against this backdrop, it is natural for people to have growing worries about a second wave of infections, especially in Seoul and the metropolitan area. The country stands at a crossroads ― between success and failure in its battle with the pandemic.

Therefore the authorities and the people cannot and should not lower their guard down. They should remain on alert. And they need to work together to defeat COVID-19 by taking bolder measures, including observing social distancing rules and personal hygiene standards. Do not forget that complacency and carelessness are a recipe for failure.


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