South Korea warned of a second wave of the new coronavirus on Sunday as infections rebounded to a one-month high, just as the authorities were starting to ease some pandemic restrictions.
South Korea's president is urging citizens not to lower their guard down, but said there's no reason to be panicked amid worries about a new surge in the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
President Moon Jae-in made the comments in a speech Sunday as his health authorities detected a slew of new cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul's Itaewon district in recent days. Earlier, South Korea's caseload had been waning for weeks, prompting authorities to relax their social distancing rules.
"The infection cluster which recently occurred in entertainment facilities," Moon said, "has raised awareness that, even during the stabilisation phase, similar situations can arise again anytime, anywhere in an enclosed, crowded space." Moon added that, "We must never lower our guard regarding epidemic prevention." But he also said "there's no reason to stand still out of fear. " Moon says South Korea has "the right quarantine and medical systems combined with experience to respond quickly to any unexpected infection clusters that might occur." South Korea reported 34 additional cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours as a spate of transmissions linked to clubgoers threatens the country's hard-won gains in its fight against the virus.
Figures released Sunday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increased national totals to 10,874 with 256 deaths. The agency said 9,610 have recovered and 10,128 others were undergoing tests to determine whether they've contracted the virus.
The agency said a tentative assessment showed 26 of the 34 new patients were locally transmitted cases, while the rest were imported. South Korean media reported it was the first time that South Korea's daily jump has marked above 30 in about a month.
The agency didn't immediately provide further details. But most of the new cases in the past few days were linked to nightclubs in Seoul's Itaewon entertainment neighborhood.
Officials on Friday said they detected at least 15 infections linked to a 29-year-old man who had visited three Itaewon clubs before testing positive Wednesday.
The infections raised worries about a new surge in South Korea, which had for weeks recorded a continuously declining number of new cases after having once had hundreds of new cases each day until early March.
South Korea's capital closed down more than 2,100 bars and other nightspots Saturday because of a new cluster of coronavirus infections, Germany scrambled to contain fresh outbreaks at slaughterhouses, and Italian authorities worried that people were getting too friendly at cocktail hour during the country's first weekend of eased restrictions.
The new flareups - and fears of a second wave of contagion - underscored the dilemma authorities face as they try to reopen their economies.
Around the world, the US and other hard-hit countries are wrestling with how to ease curbs on business and public activity without causing the virus to come surging back.
In New York, the deadliest hot spot in the US, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said three children died from a possible complication of the coronavirus involving swollen blood vessels and heart problems.