COVID-19: South Korea’s new cases fall below 100, but calls for holiday lockdown

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Sept. 26 (UPI) — South Korea reported Saturday that new COVID-19 cases fell below 100 for the first time in four days, but the country is still calling for tighter restrictions ahead of the fall harvest holiday.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 61 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 23,516.

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Four new deaths from COVID-19 were also reported, bringing the total number of deaths to 399.

The number of new cases marked the first dip below 100 after three consecutive days in the triple digits. The country reported 114 new cases Friday.

Among the 61 new cases, 47 were local infections, which was the lowest local number of new daily infections since Aug. 13, and 12 of the cases were imported cases, according to health authorities.

The rise in new cases since mid-August was tied to crowded church services in Seoul and a large anti-government rally, with the number reaching a five-month high of 441 new daily cases on Aug. 27.

Authorities responded to the August outbreak by tightening social distancing guidelines nationwide and imposing measures to limit indoor gatherings of more than 50 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 100. Businesses considered high risk such as nightclubs and karaoke rooms shut their doors.

Even though the numbers of new daily cases have fallen, the government is ramping up lockdown measures ahead of the upcoming Chuseok holiday.

The fall harvest holiday, which runs Wednesday through Oct. 4, usually includes mass movements and family gatherings across the country.

To minimize any potential resurgence, the government has designated a special two-week period for tighter restrictions against COVID-19 starting Monday. Under the lockdown measures, operations of clubs, bars and buffets in the greater Seoul area will be suspended for two weeks. In non-metropolitan areas, night clubs will also be shut down for a week.

Measures imposed last month to limit the size of gatherings will also continue.

“The Chuseok holiday is approaching and sporadic infections continue, meaning risk factors for a rebound across the country still exist,” Kwon Joon-wook, deputy director of the Central Disease Control headquarters, said in a daily briefing. “We are not in a a situation where we can feel relieved by the current circumstances.”

Meanwhile, in London, conspiracy theorist David Icke led a demonstration of hundreds of protesters in Trafalgar Square called a “Freedom Rally” against new restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The new measures included a 10 p.m. curfew at pubs and bars to prevent a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Britain has reported over 425,000 cases of COVID-19 to date, and over 42,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to data complied by Johns Hopkins University.

In Australia, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos resigned after Premier Daniel Andrews’ testimony that she was accountable for the Victoria hotel quarantine program, which prompted inquiry after guests with COVID-19 infected workers, and then, the coronavirus spread to the community.

Australia has reported over 27,000 cases and 870 deaths, according to the global tracker.

Overall, COVID-19 has infected over 32.5 million people and killed over 989,000. About half the cases are in three countries. The United States has the most cases at over 7 million and the most deaths at over 203,000. India has the second-highest number of cases at over 5.9 million and the third-highest number of deaths at over 93,000. Brazil has the third-highest number of cases at over 4.6 million and the second-highest number of deaths at over 140,500.

World moves to reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic

Visitors wear face masks as they tour the Whitney Museum of American Art as it reopens on September 3. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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