More than 200 schools have closed just days after they re-opened in South Korea after a spike in coronavirus cases.
Some 56 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the past 24 hours, down from a two-month high yesterday of 79 – but the concern is that these infections are close to highly populated areas.
Most of the new cases are linked to a distribution centre in Bucheon, just west of Seoul. The warehouse is run by the country’s biggest e-commerce firm, Coupang, and officials have said the facility was not strictly complying with infection control measures.
Health officials even discovered traces of Covid-19 on workers’ shoes and clothes. They have managed to track, trace and test thousands of employees from the centre and there will be further checks on other distribution facilities across the country over the next two weeks.
The fear of infections has forced 251 schools in Bucheon to close after reopening, while hundreds of others have had their reopening delayed.
A student in Seoul, whose mother worked at the Coupang warehouse, was also found to have the virus. Health authorities have re-imposed some restrictions and called for a tighter social distancing campaign over the next two weeks.
Public parks and museums will be closed in Seoul and surrounding cities, businesses are being urged to encourage more flexible working, and people are once again being asked to avoid mass gatherings.
There has never been a lockdown in South Korea – instead the country relied on aggressive tracking and testing measures. Most of the social distancing measures are voluntary but the appeal to the public is an emotional one.
The message is – abide by these measures to let our children go to school and stop the disruption to their education. It’s a plea that has worked in the past. Health officials will hope it works once more.