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(LEAD) Seoul braces for rallies amid virus resurgence

All News 13:10 November 14, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS prime minister's remarks in paras 6-8; REPLACES photo)

SEOUL, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- Health authorities remained on guard over street rallies scheduled for Saturday amid rising concerns over possible spread of the new coronavirus.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a major umbrella labor organization, and other progressive groups plan to stage 31 rallies in 61 locations across Seoul in the afternoon, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said.

Conservative groups will also hold 47 protests in 85 locations, according to the police.

While the number of participants in each gathering will be kept below 100 under social distancing rules, local authorities are vigilant as the number of COVID-19 cases here has been rising sharply in recent days.

The capital city currently prohibits any protests with more than 100 participants.

COVID-19 resurgence
COVID-19 resurgence

South Koreans wait to receive COVID-19 tests at a clinic in central Seoul on Nov. 14, 2020, as new coronavirus cases in the country exceeded 200 for the first time in 73 days. (Yonhap)

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun warned of stern legal actions against any illegal acts during the rallies.

In a Facebook post, Chung said the government will take measures to ensure participants comply with coronavirus guidelines, including wearing masks and keeping safe distance, and will firmly respond to violators and thoroughly hold them accountable

"We will do our best to prevent today's rallies from becoming a trigger for the spread of COVID-19," he said.

Seoul police plan to establish barricades and promptly crack down on the rallies should the number of participants in each gathering increase sharply.

"We will advise participants to follow health guidelines while limiting the number of participants," a police official said. "If the number exceeds the limit, we will take stern actions, including dispersing them."

South Korea, despite being considered to be one of most successful countries in terms of managing the virus pandemic, has suffered a slew of cluster infections since identifying its first patient in late January.

At the early stage of the pandemic, the country reported a whopping 5,200 cases of COVID-19 traced to a minor church sect from the southeastern city of Daegu. Later in the year, some 280 cases were reported from a nightlife district in the capital city.

More recently, 650 cases were traced to an anti-government rally held in the central Seoul on Aug. 15. A conservative church in northern Seoul, whose members also participated in the demonstration, added another 1,173 cases.


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