Winter sports shut down in S Korea to check COVID-19 spread

Government also extends ban on gatherings of five or more people across country in attempt to stamp out third wave.

South Korea is to close ski resorts and other tourist attractions over the year-end holidays in a bid to contain a third wave of the virus [File: Ed Jones/AFP]
South Korea is to close ski resorts and other tourist attractions over the year-end holidays in a bid to contain a third wave of the virus [File: Ed Jones/AFP]

South Korea on Tuesday extended a ban on gatherings of five or more people nationwide and ordered the closure of all ski resorts and tourist attractions over the year-end holidays in a bid to contain a stubborn third wave of the coronavirus.

Ski facilities and tourist attractions, which are popular destinations during the year-end holidays, will be closed from December 24 until January 3, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, said during a televised briefing. Gatherings will also be restricted to four people across the country – widening a ban that was imposed yesterday in Seoul and its surrounding areas – and restaurants will be subject to tighter regulations.

“We intend to break the force of the third wave with measures that are stronger than those under Level 3 social distancing,” the Yonhap news agency reported Chung as saying.

The capital area is currently under Level 2.5, the second-highest level of South Korea’s social-distancing rules, while the rest of the country is under Level 2. The government is cautious about moving to the highest level of restrictions because of the potential effect on the economy.

“The government will block transmissions in everyday life in practical ways rather than through the formality of adjusting levels,” he said.

South Korea reported 869 new coronavirus cases as of Monday midnight (15:00 GMT), the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Tuesday, down from the daily record of 1,097 reported over the weekend.

South Korea is conducting a record number of tests in its attempt to bring a stubborn third wave of the virus under control [Lee Jin-man/AP Photo]
The surge in new cases has shaken a country that has for months been held up as a mitigation success story. South Korea’s total confirmed cases since the outbreak began in January now stand at 51,460, with 722 deaths. On Monday, the number of daily deaths reached a record high.

About 70 percent of the new national daily cases have been diagnosed in Seoul, with clusters emerging in care homes and psychiatric hospitals.

The authorities have ramped up testing to combat the surge in cases with a record 110,000 tests carried out on Monday.

“Christmas and the New Year holiday period must not become a trigger for the coronavirus,” Chung said.

“The message the government is urging the people is clear. We sincerely ask you to cancel all travels and gatherings and stay home during Christmas and New Year holidays.”

Source : Al Jazeera and News agencies

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