South Korea yesterday said it will extend its intensive social distancing campaign scheduled to end on Monday by two weeks in a bid to curb the rate of coronavirus infections to around 50 a day.
The country has largely managed to bring under control Asia's largest epidemic outside China with around 100 or fewer new daily cases. But smaller outbreaks in churches, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as infections among travellers, continue to emerge.
This week, the government has been gauging whether it should extend a 15-day intensive social distancing policy it implemented on March 21, under which high-risk facilities were urged to close and religious, sports and entertainment gatherings were banned.
But it is "too early to be at ease," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said, citing a recent spike in imported cases and small cluster infections which also prompted the government to cancel the re-opening of schools next week.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 94 new cases on Saturday, taking the national tally to 10,156. The death toll rose by three to 177.
Social distancing played a role in restraining domestic group transmissions by some 70% during the first 11 days compared with the last 11 days before it took effect, Park said.
But there are signs that people restarted going out and socialising as fatigue about isolation grew, he said.
"We are well aware that many citizens are feeling exhausted and lethargic under continued social distancing," Park said. "But if we get loose, the strenuous efforts that the government and the people have made so far might come to nothing."