As South Korea faces an alarming rise in new COVID-19 cases and the possibility of entering its first potential lockdown since the start of the pandemic, its health officials have warned residents to take the current restrictions seriously.
South Korea has long been considered a model country because of its effective response to multiple waves of COVID-19. They earned praise from the WHO or the World Health Organization earlier this year after Seoul authorities successfully hindered a possible outbreak in the country.
Despite being one of the first countries to be hit by the coronavirus, South Korea avoided any harsh lockdown measures that can be seen elsewhere in the world. That is all because of its aggressive approach in terms of testing and sophisticated tracking and tracing techniques.
However, as the pandemic drags on into winter, the emergence of the third wave has already resulted in an untraceable rise in new infections.
According to CNN, senior Health Ministry official, Yoon Tae-ho, spoke on Wednesday and urged the people to abide by the imposed social distancing measures in the Metropolitan area in Seoul, which accounts for around half of the 51 million population of the country.
Yoon also shared that officials are currently consulting with several experts, an anti-virus work committee, and the local government regarding the possibility of raising the social distancing restrictions to level 3.
The senior Health Ministry official also warned that the move they are about to decide could harm micro-entrepreneurs and those who are self-employed.
On Tuesday, South Korea reported the highest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic, which is at 1,078 new cases, bringing the nationwide total to 45,442, Nikkei Asia reported.
While there are around 226 patients currently in critical condition, there were an additional 12 on Tuesday, which increased the total number of deaths to 45,442.
The acting mayor of Seoul, Seo Jung-hyup, sent a warning on Wednesday to the people in the capital that they face a critical shortage of hospital space. He said that there is only one remaining ICU bed in the city that is not occupied by a patient with coronavirus, out of 78 ICU beds offered by the city.
While the numbers exhibited recently in Seoul differ from what Europe or the United States had, experts stated that the latest spike demonstrates the additional difficulties caused by the freezing winter temperatures.
The cold weather prompts people to stay indoors, where the infection has a higher risk because of the fatigue over restrictions and precautions.
Based on the latest tally by the Johns Hopkins University, the cases in South Korea have been steadily increasing since the middle of November, as the country has been slowly enacting more restrictions and social distancing rules in response.
During the announcement of the new efforts, top South Korean health officials gave out the warning as they are currently facing their biggest crisis so far, US News reported.