South Korea Holds Off on Highest Alert as Growth in Cases Slows


South Korea stopped short of raising its coronavirus alert to the highest level, noting that growth in the number of infections has slowed.

The government will maintain level 2.5 social distancing rules in the Seoul metropolitan area and level 2 in other parts of the country until Jan. 3, Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said Sunday in a televised briefing. Level 3 is the closest scenario to a lockdown in South Korea’s alert system, and its measures include the closure of non-essential facilities from theaters to parks.

South Korea is in the midst of its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began. In recent weeks authorities considered imposing the highest alert, raising concerns that growth could be stalled by stricter measures in the way lockdowns halted the economies of other countries.

South Korea reported 970 new cases on Sunday, raising the total to more than 56,800. Daily infections have spiked from about 100 in November to about 1,000 this month. Still, Kwon said the increase in infections in the greater Seoul area has slowed considerably in the past two weeks.

“If we can accelerate our efforts to stem the spread just a little more, we believe we can turn the situation around,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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