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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Seoul’s New Coronavirus Spike

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
A medical worker measures his own body temperature during the COVID-19 testing at a makeshift clinic in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020.

Honolulu is not the only city in the Asia Pacific that’s reversing some steps of re-opening. South Korea’s capital city is taking some new actions to flatten its curve of new infections — and more may be coming.

All students below the level of high school seniors in Seoul are about to leave the classroom. On Tuesday, the government announced schools will be closed until September 11th – remote learning will be back on the syllabus for the first time since early June for most students.

Over the past two weeks, nearly 200 students, teachers and other staffers have been infected in the capital and its surrounding area.

There are other concerns, South Korea had reduced its daily numbers of new cases to below 30 on a consistent basis, but over the last couple of weeks they have swelled into the triple digits.

There have been clusters — a single church has led to more than 900 cases. One Starbucks has been linked to 66 cases.

This week, authorities ordered everyone to wear masks both inside and outside in public places. Churches and nightclubs have been closed.

Medical authorities say there are more than 1,800 coronavirus beds at hospitals in the Seoul area. Two-thirds of them are in use, and the National Medical Center warned a significant increase in critically ill patients is expected in the coming week. And there may be a coming disruption in some medical care.

The Korean Medical Association is starting a three-day national walkout today — protesting the government’s plan to reform the medical workforce.

South Korea’s Minister of Health and Welfare says this week will be a crucial test of whether the country will need to go back to even further restrictions on movement.

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