South Korea on Saturday reported its highest daily number of coronavirus cases so far, with a surge centred on the capital region sparking fears the country could lose control of the spread.
Officials announced 950 new infections after several days reporting numbers ranging from about 500 to 600.
Some 669 were reported in the greater Seoul area on Saturday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, prompting worries about a major outbreak in the densely populated area — home to half the country’s 52 million people.
“This is the last hurdle before the roll-out of vaccines and treatments,” President Moon Jae-in said in a statement, calling the situation “very grave”.
An additional 150 testing centres will be set up in areas with the heavy movement of people including train stations.
The measures include a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and spectators at sports events. Cafes can serve only takeaways, while restaurants must close by 9 pm, with only deliveries permitted afterwards.
Despite the changes, “people’s movement has not been reduced significantly”, senior KDCA official Lim Sook-young told a news briefing.
“Infections from personal face-to-face meetings have been continuing… Please cancel all such meetings,” she said.
Saturday’s figure takes the total number of domestic recorded cases in the country to more than 36,800.
It never imposed the kind of lockdowns ordered in much of Europe and other parts of the world.
The public has largely followed social distancing and other rules, such as wearing face masks.
© Agence France-Presse