South Korea May Tighten Curbs as Virus Cases Hit Nine-Month High

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South Korea is considering stricter social-distancing measures, including a ban on gatherings at high-risk venues such as karaoke bars, as the Asian nation that was lauded for its initial coronavirus containment strategy faces one of its worst resurgences.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun is scheduled to host a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures meeting in Seoul City Hall at 3 p.m. on Sunday at which the government could make a decision on tighter curbs.

South Korea confirmed 631 cases on Sunday, the highest in nine months, with 599 local infections. Total deaths rose by five to 545, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Just two weeks ago, South Korea raised the social-distancing level to 2 from 1.5 in the greater Seoul area, limiting restaurant hours and social gatherings, as the surge in cases threatened to undermine efforts to contain the pandemic. In a meeting last Sunday, Chung announced additional restrictions on top of the level 2 measures, including a halt on some businesses.

The Seoul municipal government also imposed a de facto curfew for two weeks from Dec. 5, shuttering most shops at 9 p.m. and cutting back public transportation operations by 30%.

The central government will discuss whether to add more measures at the meeting. A level 2.5 alert would lead to a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, while no spectators would be allowed at sporting events. Level 3 would result in a suspension on gatherings of more than 10 and all sporting events.

— With assistance by Hooyeon Kim

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