SEOUL, Nov. 17 (UPI) — South Korea will strengthen bodily distancing pointers within the larger Seoul space this week amid a surge in COVID-19 instances there, well being officers stated Tuesday.

Authorities will increase distancing mandates one notch on the federal government’s five-tier system, from Stage 1 to Stage 1.5 beginning at midnight Thursday. The change will final for at the very least two weeks.

“[W]e are dealing with a disaster the place we’re standing on the verge of a widespread outbreak,” stated well being minister Park Neung-hoo at a press briefing. “If we can’t comprise the virus, it would put the well being and security of many individuals in danger.”

South Korea reported 230 new COVID-19 instances on Tuesday, marking the tenth day in a row the nation has seen triple digit infections and the fourth day the full has surpassed 200. Roughly half of the brand new instances are concentrated within the densely populated Seoul space.

The brand new instances are essentially the most South Korea has seen in additional than two months and concern well being officers as a result of they’re bobbing up from numerous small clusters, from workplaces to cafes to social gatherings, making them tougher to hint.

Beneath the heightened pointers, amenities equivalent to eating places, bars and live performance halls will not be closed however they have to keep elevated spacing and comply with security measures like maintaining partitions between tables.

Rallies, concert events and festivals can’t have greater than 100 attendees and sporting occasions and church buildings are solely allowed to function at 30% capability.

The improved restrictions come simply because the Korean Baseball Group begins its seven-game championship spherical on Tuesday night time between the NC Dinos and Doosan Bears. Followers had been allowed to attend video games in restricted capability in August and attendance ranges reached 50% earlier than the tightened measures.

Faculties will even revert to two-thirds capability. Some 480,000 highschool seniors are making ready to take their once-a-year School Scholastic Aptitude Take a look at on Dec. 3, an all-day affair that is thought-about very important to future success.

The improved measures are partly meant to “create a protected atmosphere for our college students,” Park stated. He added that South Korea is attempting to keep away from going to a better stage on the social distancing scale to maintain financial affect to a minimal.

“We wish to comprise the virus right here at Stage 1.5 and hope that in two weeks will probably be underneath management,” he stated. “If the virus will not be contained, it would have an effect on [the CSAT] and can hurt many college students. It would additionally incur larger financial difficulties for our residents as nicely.”

The heightened rules will initially go into impact in Seoul and the encircling Gyeonggi Province. Incheon, the third-largest metropolis in South Korea, will undertake the brand new measures on Monday and Gangwon Province, east of Seoul, should determine whether or not to lift its stage.

South Korea was the primary nation after China to see widespread native transmission of the coronavirus in February, when an outbreak centered across the southeastern metropolis of Daegu. Officers had been in a position to comprise the preliminary wave by an aggressive and vigorous system of testing and tracing.

Nonetheless, there have been sporadic new outbreaks, together with a cluster tied to a nightclub in Could and one other round a church and an anti-government rally in Seoul in August.

Park stated South Korea’s expertise in coping with the repeated outbreaks will assist to comprise the brand new unfold.

“South Korea is as soon as once more standing at a really vital level,” he stated. “Nonetheless, we have now confronted repeated challenges and crises, and we now have nice know-how and expertise, in addition to a way of solidarity and cooperation among the many individuals.”

For the reason that begin of the pandemic, there have been 29,000 COVID-19 instances and about 500 deaths in South Korea, based on information compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins College.