South Korea has reported its biggest spike in cases in almost two months amid fears it could be entering its second wave of infections.
The Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 79 new cases on Thursday, the biggest single-day rise since April 5.
Most of those infections came from community transmission linked to a warehouse in Bucheon, on the outskirts of Seoul, rather than cases imported from overseas.
South Korea reported 79 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, its largest single-day rise in almost two months, with a majority of cases linked to a warehouse near Seoul (pictured)
The country’s health minister hinted that social distancing may have to be reinforced as it becomes difficult to track and test cases (pictured, warehouse workers are tested)
Health minister Park Neung-hoo raised the prospect that the country – widely regarded as mounting on of the best virus responses in the world – may have to return to social distancing as it becomes increasingly difficult to track outbreaks.
‘Infection routes are being diversified in workplaces, crammed schools and karaoke rooms in the metropolitan area,’ Park said.
He urged people to avoid unnecessary gatherings and for employers to allow sick employees time off work to stop the infection spreading.
The warehouse outbreak accounted for 69 of the 79 new cases, the KCDC said.
Around 4,100 workers and visitors to the building are under self-isolation, with more than 80 per cent tested so far, vice health minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters.
‘We are expecting the number of new cases linked to the warehouse to continue rising until today as we wrap up related tests,’ he added.
It comes after another 250 cases were linked to nightclubs in Seoul in early May.
Social distancing rules have been relaxed in South Korea and facilities such as museums and churches have reopened.
Some professional sports – including baseball and soccer – started new seasons earlier this month, albeit behind closed doors.
Students have been returning to classes since last week, with more than 2million pupils going back to classes on Wednesday this week.
The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside mainland China, but managed to bring it under control thanks to extensive testing and contact tracing of every case.
South Korea never imposed a total lockdown of the kind seen in Europe, although it did impose strict social distancing rules in March – which are now being relaxed.
In total the country has reported 11,344 cases and 269 deaths, one of the lowest totals of any developed nation.
South Korea never went into full lockdown but did enforce social distancing rules which have been slowly relaxed in recent weeks, with 2million children going back to school yesterday
Despite avoiding full lockdown, South Korea’s economy is still expected to suffer the effects of coronavirus – though the drop will be far less severe than elsewhere.
The country’s central bank forecast a decline of 0.2 per cent in GDP this year on Thursday, a marked downgrade on the 2.1 per cent growth predicted in February as the virus was still spreading.
By comparison the European economy – which is only now emerging from full lockdown – is expected to fall by up to 12 per cent this year, the European Central Bank has said.
The Bank of Korea made its forecast as it cut interest rates to 0.5 per cent in an attempt to ease the strain on hard-hit businesses.
‘The growth of the domestic economy has slowed significantly’ due to the coronavirus, and is expected to be sluggish and unpredictable in future, the central bank said in a statement.
‘The employment situation has deteriorated,’ it added, with many in the service sector losing jobs, while ‘exports fell significantly’.
It is the second rate cut in three months, after a surprise 50-basis-point reduction to 0.75 percent in March.
The South is highly trade-dependent and saw its worst economic performance in more than a decade in the first quarter as the epidemic struck.
Gross domestic product shrank 1.4 percent year-on-year during the January to March period, its biggest decline since the fourth quarter of 2008 during the global financial crisis.
Source: Daily Mail – Articles