SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Wednesday that how the nation deals with the pandemic during this week's Lunar New Year holiday will be crucial in the outcome of South Korea's grueling battle against the third COVID-19 wave.
"The Lunar New Year holiday which begins tomorrow is an important crossroad for the trajectory of the COVID-19 (pandemic). The most critical-to-date third wave could either end, or its dying embers could flare up again," Chung said during an interagency meeting on the COVID-19 response held in the city of Gwangju, 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul.
Chung once again stressed the importance of the public's participation to flatten the curve of the third pandemic wave, which peaked at a record high of 1,241 daily cases on Dec. 25.
On Wednesday, South Korea added 444 more COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, including 414 local infections, raising the total caseload to 81,930. The figure represents a spike from Tuesday as clusters of infections continued to emerge.
"As always during crises, the people are the agents of the nation's antivirus measures," Chung said.
Health authorities are on high alert ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday that runs from Thursday to Saturday. Millions of South Koreans normally travel across the country to visit their relatives and families.
To contain the spread of the virus, social distancing guidelines, including a ban on gatherings of five or more people, will be maintained through Sunday.
Chung pointed out that sales of department store-purchased presents have reached record-high figures, noting that "more people are sending their thoughts to their relatives through gifts as opposed to visiting them in person."
The prime minister also explained that virus testing centers throughout the country will operate as usual, while thanking medical workers and public servants working over the holiday for contributing to the fight against the pandemic.
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