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Raising distancing rules to top level should remain as government's 'final card': PM

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during a government meeting of top officials in charge of dealing with the pandemic at the Seoul City Hall on Monday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during a government meeting of top officials in charge of dealing with the pandemic at the Seoul City Hall on Monday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Monday that elevating the nation's social distancing rules to the highest Level 3 should be a last resort for the government in dealing with the new coronavirus crisis, stressing the importance for the public to properly follow state-mandated distancing rules.

"Adjusting the social distancing level needs to be prepared thoroughly, but it should remain as the final card," Chung said during a government meeting of top officials in charge of dealing with the pandemic.

The remarks came as the government is mulling over whether to elevate the social distancing requirements to the strongest Level 3 from the current Level 2.5 in Seoul and surrounding areas.

On Sunday, the country reported 1,097 new COVID-19 cases, the largest daily figure ever, making it the fourth straight day the daily number exceeded the 1,000 mark. The daily tally came down to 926 cases on Monday, raising the total caseload to 50,591, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

"The number of positive patients has not obviously dwindled, but there have been some positive signs, such as the decreasing (public) use of mobile phones and transportation and the narrowing rate of those infected in their 60s or older, thanks to aggressive virus tests," the prime minister said.

He also instructed officials to come up with tougher infection prevention measures for the year-end and New Year's Day period, especially for facilities with high risks of virus infection such as hospitals, nursing homes and ski resorts.

The prime minister, meanwhile, warned against the spread of fake news or rumors on COVID-19, saying such illegal acts will be dealt with through "stern" law enforcement.

He said "distorted, false information is again proliferating as the COVID-19 crisis is continuing, such as (rumors on) the adoption of Level 3 social distancing or signs of hoarding of essential goods." (Yonhap)
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