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Asia Minute: South Korea’s Holiday Worries

coronavirus covid Outbreak South Korea Daily Life
Lee Jin-man/AP
Visitors wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus visit at the International Quarantine Expo in Goyang, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

New cases of COVID-19 have surged again in South Korea — especially in the capital city. These developments come as tens of millions of South Koreans get ready to travel for one of the year’s biggest holidays.

Just this week, Seoul reported more than 800 cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours.

That’s the city’s highest tally since the start of the pandemic.

Yonhap News Agency quotes a senior health official as saying the rising case numbers are in part because of “relaxed vigilance and increased population movement.”

That makes the timing tricky for this year’s celebration of Chuseok — one of the country’s most important holidays.

It’s an autumn harvest festival — similar to American Thanksgiving, but also with an element of the Chinese Qingming, or “tomb sweeping,” Festival.

Chuseok is a time for family gatherings — including visits to ancestral graves — and lots of eating together.

This year, family gatherings will be limited to eight — as long as at least half the group is fully vaccinated.

The festival officially begins on Monday — but the travel boom gets underway today.

The Chosun Ilbo quotes the Korea Transport Institute as saying more than 32 million Koreans are expected to hit the road during the holiday period.

More than 90% plan on driving — with fewer travelers than usual planning on using mass transit.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says nearly 42% of the country’s population has now been fully vaccinated.

The government’s goal is to vaccinate 70% by the end of October.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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