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Greater Seoul still virus hotspot amid S Korea's COVID-19 resurgence

A couple wearing masks walks on a street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Seoul, South Korea, December 13, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Jennifer Chang
Press TV, Seoul

A third COVID-19 wave has broken out in South Korea with Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province - the critical capital region - still at the epicenter, like the second wave in August.

Health officials have been unable to stop it from skyrocketing - with daily infections this week ranging from 550 to 950 cases - after warning of it on November 20th. 

The third wave hit a record 950 cases Saturday. Unlike the first two waves, its clusters which make up most cases break out sporadically in diverse everyday places like hospitals, aerobic centers and restaurants.

Social distancing is at the second highest level for greater Seoul, where virus-prone businesses like indoor sports facilities and karaoke rooms must stay closed and after 9 p.m., public transportation is cut by 30 percent. Seoul hospital containers are even being set up due to a lack of beds for coronavirus patients.

COVID-19 has even spread from greater Seoul to Gangneung - a world-famous resort city 240 kilometers away that fought coronavirus at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics it co-hosted with Pyeongchang County two years ago.

The city has introduced an advanced digital system to fight COVID-19 at its year-round tourist site Gyeongpo Beach featuring drones with loudspeakers that broadcast warnings to visitors to wear masks and maintain social distancing. 

In the early stages of South Korea's epidemic - which began on January 20th - the country's digital-led response, including advanced systems like contact tracing, could contain the virus. Since then, the country has served as a global model for battling the deadly disease. But now, the number of known transmission routes has plunged, causing fear that it may no longer be able to manage another wave this winter. 

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