Large Liberation Day demonstrations are taking place in Seoul on Saturday despite new COVID-19 cases in the country reaching a five-month high of 166, with authorities reinstating stricter social distancing guidelines as the highly infectious disease is spreading at an alarming rate.
The demonstrations come as a Seoul court mostly upheld local government's injunctions to ban large gatherings in light of public safety concerns and as police have warned they will not permit unlawful protests.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in South Korea reached a five-month high of 166 on Saturday, with rebounds of transmissions in and around the capital city putting pressure on authorities to consider reintroducing stricter social distancing guidelines and other safety measures.
The daily tally marks the second day in a row that infection numbers reached triple digits, with the total caseload in the country hitting 15,039, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). Of the new cases, 155 were local transmissions, with churches being cited as outbreak clusters.
Reflecting the rise in numbers, the government raised the three-tier social distancing scheme in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province from Level 1 to Level 2, effective Sunday. The move bans all large-scale indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo warned that health authorities have not been able to track 14 percent of all new cases confirmed to a source and that the country may be close to experiencing another large-scale outbreak.
Sarang Jeil Church, led by conservative pastor Jun Kwang-hoon, and the Freedom Union have gone ahead with a rally to blast the government and the ruling Democratic Party near Gyeongbok Palace.
Health authorities have said that over 130 people who go to the church in Seoul have been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19. (Yonhap)