Gov't on alert over Chuseok gatherings

Gov't on alert over Chuseok gatherings

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae speaks during a meeting with vice superintendents of 17 metropolitan and provincial education offices at the Government Complex in Sejong, Wednesday. Yonhap

By Bahk Eun-ji

The health authorities are urging citizens to refrain from gathering and traveling, amid growing concerns that the country’s virus cases are likely to reach a peak during the Chuseok holiday, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving, which runs from Sept. 20 to 22 this year.

Ahead of the traditional holiday, the numbers of daily new cases of COVID-19 are hovering around 2,000.

Experts are concerned that the virus spread will gain speed after Chuseok, and predict that infections will continue to increase especially in the capital area.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 1,943 new infections for Wednesday, including 1,921 local transmissions, raising the aggregated total to 279,930.

Daily cases were down from the previous day’s 2,080, but quarantine authorities remain vigilant over a series of mass infections centered on the metropolitan area where the country’s population is concentrated.

In particular, the proportion of infections in the capital region reaches nearly 80 percent daily. A total of 1,512 people, or 78.5 percent of all infections here, were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area, including 719 in Seoul, 656 in Gyeonggi Province and 137 in Incheon on the same day.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum urged the public to observe quarantine measures and refrain from gatherings and traveling for the sake of the health and safety of all family members.

“The COVID-19 situation in the metropolitan area has been serious ahead of Chuseok, as the daily new cases has been soaring for the fifth week in a row,” Kim said in a recent interagency meeting on the government’s COVID-19 response.

“While quarantine authorities and local governments in the metropolitan area will concentrate all their quarantine capabilities, we urge the public to stay home instead of traveling to visit relatives during the holidays,” Kim said.

Education authorities have also asked schools and private academies for cooperation in quarantine measures to prevent infections from spreading in schools after the Chuseok long weekend.

Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs and Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae held a meeting with vice superintendents of 17 metropolitan and provincial offices of education at the Government Complex in Sejong, Wednesday, to discuss quarantine measures during the holidays.

Yoo said that Chuseok could become a tipping point for in-person classes in schools.

“If we overcome the current crisis well by strictly following quarantine rules during Chuseok, we will be able to expand face-to-face classes at all schools nationwide in October, but if the increasing trend continues after the holiday, it will not be easy to maintain the policy,” Yoo said.

“Please minimize travel to visit parents or relatives, and face-to-face contact between students, parents, and faculty during the holiday.”

The ministry urges families and relatives to express the holiday spirit in a non-face-to-face manner.

The measures proposed by the ministry included: greeting through videos between family members and relatives, refraining from close contact with others, not using dense and closed multi-use facilities, and not participating in gatherings with unspecified numbers of participants such as alumni associations.

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