South Korea eases social distancing amid drop in COVID-19 cases

Seoul, May 6 : South Korea on Wednesday introduced new relaxed social distancing measures by reopening schools and museums, as new coronavirus cases continued to fall in the country, which has gone three days without registering locally originated infections.

Authorities in South Korea, where forced confinement was not implemented and borders were not closed, ended a social distancing phase activated two and a half months ago to start another one dubbed "distancing in daily life."

In this new phase citizens are asked to adhere to four guidelines: stay home 3-4 days if one becomes ill, keep people "one arm's length away" wash their hands regularly and cough into the elbow, and ventilate and clean spaces regularly, Efe news reported.

Starting May 13, the school year will begin (in stages and until June 1), which was originally scheduled to start March 2 and has had to be taught online and on television since April 9.

The Ministry of Education has ensured that 99 percent of schools, where the use of masks will be compulsory, have already completed their contingency plans, including the supply of masks for students and teachers.

This new phase also involves the progressive reopening of museums (with currently limited spaces and operating hours), public libraries, gyms or nightlife clubs and the restart of professional sports leagues (currently behind closed doors).

"South Korea can return to the intensive social distancing system at any time if the situation worsens," Jeong Eun-kyeong, director-general of the Korea Centre for Infectious Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said on Wednesday at a news conference.

The country registered two new infections Wednesday (both originating abroad), the lowest number since Mar.

18, the day a major outbreak was discovered in the city of Daegu.

With its intensive tracking system, mass testing and widespread hospitalization of victims, South Korea, which at the time was the second country most affected by the virus after reporting more than 900 new infections in a single day, has managed to control the outbreak and its expansion.

In total, the country registered 10,806 infections, of which only 11.2 per cent are active cases (more than 86 per cent of those who became ill have been cured), while the case fatality rate is 2.36 per cent.



Source: IANS