Strong social distancing measures to stay for another 2 weeks: PM

SEOUL-- The government has decided to extend the second-toughest social distancing measures for another two weeks, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Sunday.

"The third wave of the pandemic, which seemed to be flattening, has hit the country again," Chung said during a government response meeting held at the Seoul government complex on Sunday.

"Given the condition, the government decided to maintain the current social distancing rules and health protocols for another two weeks until the end of the Lunar New Year holiday," he said.

The government was mulling over whether to ease social distancing measures to help revive the economy battered by the pandemic. But it decided not to do so as clusters of infections tied to mission schools and hospitals have continued unabated, compounding the government's such efforts.

Since Dec. 8, the country has imposed Level 2.5, the second highest in its five-tier scheme, in the greater Seoul area and Level 2 in other regions. Bans on gatherings of five or more people have been in place almost across the entire country.

After the third wave of the pandemic reached a record high of 1,241 on Dec. 25, new virus infections fell to a two-month low of 346 on Jan. 22.

But infections increased again and the virus reproduction rate, which refers to the number of people a COVID-19 patient infects, has risen over 1, indicating the virus keeps spreading.

Chung also said the country will get enough Pfizer vaccine doses for 60,000 people as early as mid-February and enough AstraZeneca vaccine doses for up to 2.19 million people in the first half of this year.

The country added 355 more COVID-19 cases Sunday, including 325 local infections, raising the total caseload to 78,205, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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