Asia Minute: Coronavirus: Seoul’s New Wave

Jun 23, 2020

The number of coronavirus cases in Hawaii saw some sharp daily increases at the end of last week. Cases are growing steadily in several other parts of the United States. One overseas country that had early success with the virus is now facing a new challenge.

Parts of South Korea are experiencing a second wave of the novel coronavirus, and authorities say it was likely sparked by behavior during a single holiday weekend.

The head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control said the first wave ended in April. And on Monday she warned in a media briefing, “If a wave is defined as an explosion of infections that significantly strains the health care system, I believe a second wave is in progress in the Greater Seoul area.”

In late February, South Korea reported the first extensive spread of COVID-19 outside of China. But by late April, testing, contact tracing, isolation and distancing were used extensively across the country — and new daily cases had fallen to the single digits.

But then a holiday weekend starting Friday May 1st led to broader travel, and clusters at bars in Seoul — part of an outbreak that has grown. Government figures show the monthly patient count in the Seoul area at roughly 800 so far in June – compared to roughly 500 in May and a little more than 400 in April.

South Korea relaxed some social distancing regulations in early May, but not in every area of the country.

Seoul has maintained stricter guidelines, and Yonhap News reports health authorities are warning they could extend those measures across the country if the number of cases continues to rise — and to spread.