Cases of Chinese coronavirus in South Korea spiked to more than 1,000 per day following the government’s recent decision to impose social distancing guidelines over the Christmas season, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency released Wednesday (KDCA).
The KDCA reported 1,092 cases Wednesday, the second-highest single-day total since the pandemic began. The figure represented an increase over the 869 cases documented Tuesday and 926 on Monday, though was slightly lower than the 1,097 cases confirmed on Sunday. At least 17 people have died over the past 24 hours.
Authorities have responded to the numbers by moving social distancing guidelines to Tier 3, the highest of the current five-tier system. Seoul is currently at Tier 2.5, while the rest of the country is in Tier 2.
Seoul moved into Tier 2.5 on December 6, prior to the increase in cases.
Beginning Wednesday, any gatherings of five or more people will be prohibited. Most shops and restaurants will be allowed to stay open, so long as they comply with the necessary guidelines. However, all tourist venues will be closed through the Christmas season, raising fears about the economy.
As part of the new set of measures, Seoul has suspended all flights from Britain, where a new and possibly more transmissible mutation of the virus has been detected, until at least January 1.
As of Wednesday, health officials have recorded 52,550 cases of the virus and just 739 deaths. Given its population of nearly 52 million, this works out at a death rate of 11.84 per million people, one of the lowest in the developed world.
Despite South Korea’s low mortality rate, its left-wing President Moon Jae-in has unsuccessfully tried to weaponize the pandemic to prevent demonstrations against various government policies such as a liberalization of abortion laws. His government also imposed a ban on religious services throughout the Christmas season, sparking anger and condemnation from the country’s religious community. Conservative dissidents have found various innovative ways of evading the rules, including holding “drive-thru” rallies from the comfort of their own vehicles.