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Seoul city to expand contact tracing team amid virus resurgence

A sign on a table asks customers to use a different table to ensure social distancing at a cafe in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
A sign on a table asks customers to use a different table to ensure social distancing at a cafe in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The Seoul city government said Wednesday it will increase the number of contact tracing agents from 30 to 190 amid a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases.

By increasing their number, the city government said it will identify people who came into close contact with a COVID-19 patient and place them under quarantine within 24 hours of a confirmed infection.

The measure comes as Seoul, the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of the capital, are set to raise their social distancing scheme by one notch to Level 1.5 at midnight. The new level will be in place for two weeks.

Level 1.5 calls for stricter social distancing rules, including a ban on dancing or moving between tables at entertainment facilities, limiting capacity at karaoke bars to one person per 4 square meters and prohibiting eating there, and capping capacity at concerts, academic events and festivals to under 100.

The central government announced Tuesday that the greater Seoul area passed the threshold for Level 1.5 -- more than 100 average daily cases in the previous week -- and that the new level would take effect Thursday.

The Seoul city government reported 92 new cases in the capital on Tuesday, the biggest number since 101 on Sept. 1

Park Yoo-mi, a disease control official at the city government, said it is critical to ensure the medical response system remains effective once Level 1.5 goes into force.

"We will step up our medical capacity to the maximum to ensure we don't go to Level 2," she said during a virtual press briefing.

South Korea's social distancing scheme is divided into Levels 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 and 3.

The city government added that it plans to step up monitoring of social distancing rules ahead of the national college entrance exam on Dec. 3 and around the Christmas and New Year holidays. (Yonhap)
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