South Korea bans year-end parties as coronavirus case spike again

South Korea bans year-end parties as coronavirus case spike again
South Korea said restrictions would be tightened on gatherings and activities seen as prone to virus transmission, especially in the capital Seoul and surrounding urban areas. (AP)
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Updated 29 November 2020

South Korea bans year-end parties as coronavirus case spike again

South Korea bans year-end parties as coronavirus case spike again
  • South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories
  • But spikes in infections have reappeared relentlessly, triggering alarm in Asia’s fourth-largest economy

SEOUL: South Korean authorities announced a ban on year-end parties and some music lessons on Sunday and said public saunas and some cafes must also close after coronavirus infections surged at their fastest pace since the early days of the pandemic.
South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories but spikes in infections have reappeared relentlessly, triggering alarm in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Authorities reported 450 new infections on Sunday after more than 500 cases were recorded for three days in a row, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.
What authorities are calling a third wave of infections is spreading at the fastest rate in nearly nine months, driven by outbreaks at military facilities, a sauna, a high school and churches.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said restrictions would be tightened on gatherings and activities seen as prone to virus transmission, especially in the capital Seoul and surrounding urban areas.
“Year-end events and parties hosted by hotels, party rooms, guest houses and other accommodation facilities will be banned outright,” Chung told a briefing after meeting health officials.
Saunas and steam-bath rooms with a high risk of mass infection would also be banned as would the teaching of wind musical instruments and singing, he said.
For the rest of the country, social distancing rules would also be tightened from Tuesday, he said.
Chung said the government was talking to parliament about the possibility of new relief funds for households and businesses, the third this year as the economy struggles.
“Our assessment is that we need the third crisis support fund ... The government will come up with a conclusion on this after discussing with both the ruling and opposition parties,” he said.
President Moon Jae-in toured a Seoul high school on Sunday that was being prepared as a test center to accommodate students in quarantine on Dec 3., when almost 500,000 students sit for the annual college entrance exam.
Moon toured classrooms where desks were equipped with partitions and hand sanitizers to host five test takers in quarantine.


UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
Updated 2 min 58 sec ago

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
LONDON: Britain’s government hopes it can meet its target for rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and be able to consider easing lockdown restrictions by March, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday.
The country, which has Europe’s highest COVID-19 death toll, has been under a national lockdown since Jan. 5, when schools were closed for most pupils, non-essential businesses were shut to the public, and people were ordered to work from home where possible.
“What we want to do is get out of this national lockdown as soon as possible,” Raab told Sky News television.
“By early spring, hopefully by March, we’ll be in a position to make those decisions. I think it’s right to say we won’t do it all in one big bang. As we phase out the national lockdown, I think we’ll end up phasing through a tiered approach.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers — or roughly more than 13 million people — by mid-February.
If all goes smoothly, he has said that England can consider easing lockdown restrictions from that time.
The Sunday Times newspaper said British ministers had reached a deal to approve a three-point plan that could lead to some lockdown restrictions being lifted as soon as early March.
Areas will have restrictions eased once their death rate has fallen, the number of hospital admissions drops and some people aged between 50 and 70 are vaccinated, the newspaper said.
The Sunday Times quoted cabinet ministers as saying they were prepared to resist pressure from health advisers to delay the changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least.
“For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves in the cabinet,” a cabinet source told the newspaper. “Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”
A spokesman in Johnson’s office declined to comment on the report.