South Korea Closes Down as 'Massive Outbreak' Nears

Churches and baseball stadiums are empty now
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 23, 2020 11:00 AM CDT
South Korea Tightens Up as Outbreak Nears Peak Levels
People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus pray Sunday while maintaining social distancing during a service at the Chogyesa temple in Seoul.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Churches were closed, and professional baseball games were played in empty stadiums on Sunday as South Korea stepped up measures nationwide to fight a resurgence in coronavirus cases that has raised concerns that the epidemic is getting out of control. The 397 new cases reported by South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention marked the 10th straight day of triple-digit increases and indicated that the speed of the virus's spread was nearing levels seen during the worst of the outbreak in the spring. The resurgence, which began in the densely populated Seoul area before reaching practically every major city and provincial town over the past week, is a major setback for a country that had been eager to tout its hard-won gains against the virus. After avoiding stringent social distancing measures because of concerns about hurting the economy, the AP reports, officials stepped up restrictions nationwide on Sunday.

Gatherings of more than 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors were banned, and nightclubs, karaoke rooms, buffet restaurants, and computer-gaming cafes were shut. Churches can hold online services only, while fans were removed from professional sports, just weeks after baseball and soccer teams had been allowed to sell limited portions of their seats. Such measures were first implemented in the greater Seoul area on Wednesday, but officials announced Saturday that they would be expanded nationwide. KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said things will probably get worse before they get better. The daily jumps could become even bigger in the coming days because health workers are increasingly struggling to keep up with the pace of infection, scrambling to trace and test the contacts of virus carriers, she said, adding that the increases are "pushing us on the verge of a massive nationwide outbreak."

(More South Korea stories.)

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