South Korea extends social distancing for two weeks

A healthcare worker in a bio-hazard suit sprays disinfectant outside Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center, a hospital in Daegu, South Korea, that is treating COVID-19 patients. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

April 4 (UPI) — South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Saturday the country will extend social distancing for two weeks during the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea’s COVID-19 caseload has slowed since early March when around 500 new cases were reported a day.

Ninety-four new cases were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention Saturday, but there has been concern about coronavirus cases steadily rising in the metropolitan area of Seoul, where millions live.

Chung raised concerns about rising infections tied to arrivals from Europe and the United States and said there would be economic implications of extending social distancing, but it was needed so their efforts weren’t in vain.

“We very well know that continuing social distancing comes with massive costs and sacrifice,” Chung said. “But if we loosen things right now, the effort we do far invested could pop and disappear like a bubble.”

The “strengthened social distance,” will last until April 19, according to South Korean government officials.

South Korea has had 10,156 cases and 177 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s global tracker as of Saturday morning.

Globally, more than 1 million cases and more than 60,000 deaths have been confirmed.

The United States has the most cases worldwide at 278,458 cases, but Italy, which has 119,827 cases, still has the most deaths with 14,681 deaths confirmed Saturday. Spain, which has 124,736 cases, has the second-highest death toll worldwide at 11,744 deaths followed by the United States, which has 7,159 deaths.

The deaths of 809 people in 24 hours brought the death toll in Spain to 11,644. The deaths were a rise of 7.3 percent, but the lowest increase since March 26.

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Still, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is set to extend the country’s state of emergency and lockdown to April 26.

Other countries are extending or announcing new lockdowns to control the spread of the virus.

In Britain, social distancing rules will remain in place for several more weeks even though virus scientist Neil Ferguson told the BBC there appears to be early signs the virus may be “slowing down a little bit.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is still in self-isolation after being diagnosed with the virus, urged people to stay at home this weekend to save lives, despite the forecast for “fine weather” Saturday.

Britain had 38,698 cases and 3,612 deaths as of Saturday, amid a three-week lockdown.

The World Health Organization warned governments in the Middle East to move fast to curb the spread after cases in the region rose nearly 60,000.

In Egypt, a link between northeast Africa with the Middle East, health officials on Friday urged people to stay home until April 10. Egypt has reported 985 cases and 66 deaths.

Pakistan, which has 2,708 cases and 41 deaths, has extended its lockdown until April 14, the country’s National Coordination Committee on COVID-19 announced Wednesday.

The shutdown will impact domestic and international flight with an exception from April 3 to April 11 for special flights for Canadian and British citizens leaving the country.

In China now has 85,543 cases, 3,330 deaths and 76,942 recoveries. The city of Wuhan — the epicenter of the outbreak — is beginning to open up after two-month lockdown, but officials said residents should still only go outside if necessary.

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