South Korea tightens curbs in Seoul as COVID-19 cases hit new high

South Korea will impose heightened social distancing rules for the capital Seoul and surrounding areas, local media reported on Sunday, as health authorities struggle to contain the largest wave of coronavirus infections in nine months.

The decision comes after the government implemented unprecedented measures on Saturday in a country that had seen initial success through aggressive contact tracing and other steps.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 631 new cases as of midnight Saturday – the largest daily tally since a peak in February and early March – bringing the country`s total to 37,546, with 545 deaths.

The new wave of infections has brought the number of active cases in South Korea to a record 7,873, according to the KDCA, raising concerns over the dwindling number of hospital beds.

Many of the recent cases have been centred in Seoul, which on Saturday launched unprecedented curfews, shuttering most establishments and shops at 9 p.m. (1200 GMT) for two weeks and cutting back public transportation operations by 30% in the evenings.

Under Sunday`s measures, gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited and stricter attendance limits will be placed on religious gatherings and school classes, while businesses like gyms and karaoke bars will face new restrictions, Yonhap said.

The heightened curbs will last at least three weeks, until the end of the month, news agency News1 reported.

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