Asia Minute: South Korea Moves Quickly to Tamp Down Spread of Virus

Nov 18, 2020

Governments around the world are taking different steps to fight the spread of the coronavirus. In South Korea’s capital, that means a new round of restrictions is about to kick in — less than a month after they were reduced.

South Korea’s daily count of new cases of COVID-19 cracked 300 early this morning.

That may not sound like much compared to many places. California had more than 13,000 cases on Monday, and it has roughly three-quarters of South Korea’s population.

But 313 is the highest new case count for South Korea since late August.

In the capital area of Seoul, new cases have averaged more than 125 over the past week. And that’s enough to bring on new restrictions there — several weeks after they were last loosened.

It’s far from a “lockdown” — but as of midnight tonight, restaurants need to put up dividers and spread out their tables a bit further. Customers will be limited at venues from barber shops and hair salons to indoor gyms.

Churches and sporting events will max out at thirty-percent capacity crowds.

Schools will only be allowed to operate at two-thirds capacity — meaning more children in Seoul will have to stay home.

The latest curbs will be re-evaluated after two weeks.

South Korea has had relative success in dealing with the pandemic — in part because it reacts so quickly to changes in the data about the spread of the virus.

The Prime Minister said it was essential to move immediately on the restrictions, saying “we all know from our experiences that there would be an even bigger crisis if we don’t act now.”