South Korea is battling a second wave of the new coronavirus, a public health official confirmed Monday.
A holiday weekend in early May sparked small but persistent outbreaks in the densely populated, previously unaffected area of Seoul, said director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Jeong Eun-kyeong , during a press conference.
“In the metropolitan area, we believe that the first wave was from March to April and from February to March,” Jeong said. “So we see that the second wave that was triggered by the May holidays has been occurring.”
The increase, fueled in part by young people who contracted the virus after visiting Seoul’s nightclubs and bars over the holiday weekend, came just as the country announced that it will ease patterns of social estrangement in early May.
The public health agency initially said the country’s first wave never ended, but withdrew from that claim on Monday.
“We originally predicted that the second wave would emerge in the fall or winter,” said Jeong. “Our forecast turned out to be incorrect. As long as people have close contact with others, we believe that the infections will continue. ”
At the end of February, South Korea counted more than 900 cases of COVID-19 per day, the first major outbreak outside of China.
But through an intense follow-up and test campaign, the numbers dropped to single digits in late April.
The country never needed to be blocked, the BBC reported.
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But Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon warned that the capital city could soon see hundreds of cases a day if recent infection rates continue, despite daily figures currently at manageable levels.
The mayor also warned that the city could return to strict social distancing if cases exceed 30 on average in the next three days, and if the bed occupancy rate in city hospitals exceeds 70 percent, according to the report.
The city of Daejeon, south of the capital, also announced that it would ban meetings in public spaces such as museums and libraries after a series of small groups of viruses emerged.
In the past 24 hours, 17 new coronavirus infections from different groups were reported in large offices and warehouses, officials said Monday, according to the BBC.
It was the first time in nearly a month that daily new cases had dropped below 20, a marked decrease from the 48 and 67 cases reported in the previous two days.
In total, the country has reported 12,438 cases of COVID-19, with 280 deaths, as shown by data from Johns Hopkins University.