South Korea's health authorities are coming under growing pressure to increase the intensity of social distancing in the face of a steady rise in new virus cases in major cities such as Gwangju, but the reimposition of toughened infection preventive measures may be in place for those that report a sustained rise in new infections.
The country last week adopted a three-tier social distancing scheme that adjusts the intensity of virus prevention guidelines depending on the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The country is currently in "Level 1" social distancing that is implemented when the virus situation is manageable under the current medical system, with the daily rise of COVID-19 cases staying below 50.
The Level 1 social distancing is equivalent to the country's "distancing in daily life" adopted on May 6, which enables citizens to carry out their economic and social activities under quarantine rules.
However, due to a resurgence of virus cases in recent days, there have been growing calls that the country should raise its social distancing level.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the daily rise of virus cases topped 60 from Friday to Sunday, which was the first time since April that the country posted more than 60 new COVID-19 cases for three consecutive days.
On Monday, South Korea reported 48 more novel coronavirus cases, bringing the total caseload to 13,139.
Cluster infections have been reported outside the greater Seoul area, with cities like Gwangju and Daejeon dealing with their own COVID-19 outbreaks.
Gwangju, some 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul, has seen coronavirus cases rise sharply due mainly to cluster infections linked to a Buddhist temple and a church.
Daejeon, a central city 164 kilometers south of Seoul, has been suffering from cluster infections connected to a door-to-door business and is now dealing with cases tied to a school.
Although concerns have been escalating over another wave of the virus, health authorities said they are not considering raising the nationwide social distancing level.
Instead, they recommended city governments set their own social distancing levels.
Already, the city of Gwangju and South Jeolla Province have announced that they have decided to apply "Level 2" social distancing measures for their regions.
"We are pushing forward a strategy implementing social distancing measures on a municipality level depending on the region's virus situation, instead of applying same distancing measures nationwide," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said at a press briefing Sunday. "When we assess the virus infection risks of a region, we consider its virus cases and medical resources."
Health authorities said the plan is aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 more efficiently since the virus situation varies from region to region and that implementing the same virus prevention guidelines across the nation requires more assessment.
Health authorities said the country will apply Level 2 distancing measures if daily infections exceed 50 for 14 straight days but remain under 100, and "Level 3" if the daily rise of new virus cases far exceeds 100.
Under Level 2, all private and public indoor meetings of 50 or more and outdoor meetings of over 100 will be banned. Under Level 3, all meetings of 10 people or more will be banned and all students will be prohibited from going to schools. (Yonhap)