South Korean officials have confirmed that more than five thousand coronavirus-related violations were reported to authorities over the extended Lunar New Year holiday that lasted from Thursday to Sunday.
According to the Central Disease Control Headquarters, the Interior Ministry received a total of 5,615 reports of violations of COVID protocols over the four days.
For the duration of the holiday, there was an active ban, which had been in place since late December, on private gatherings of five or more people. However, since Monday, the government has relaxed the measure somewhat by allowing gatherings between senior parents and their sons and daughters living in separate residences regardless of the number of people.
The Central Disease Control Headquarters added that of the reported violations, 3,462, or 61.7 percent, were breaches of the no-assembly order, followed by breaches of entry requirements with 30.8 percent, and failure to properly social distance, with 7.4 percent. There were also nine self-quarantine violation cases.
As for specific types of violations, not wearing face masks in public spaces accounted for the most cases with 1,466, followed by private gatherings of families and friends (1,025), assembly of five or more people (841), and improper social distancing (414).
For much of the past week, South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases bounced between three hundred and four hundred, which has given the government more confidence to further ease restrictions.
The adjustment allows restaurants, coffeeshops, and gyms in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province to remain open for an hour longer until 10 p.m. Nightclubs, karaoke bars, and other entertainment venues, which had been closed since November, will be allowed to reopen until 10 p.m.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, however, still urged citizens to always follow public health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.
“The biggest risk factor is people lowering their guard. Whether the virus slows or resurges depends on this,” he said during an interagency virus response meeting over the weekend.
“The government will be able to adopt the new social distancing measures in March only when the virus remains under control in the next two weeks,” Chung said.
Meanwhile, South Korea was able to secure coronavirus vaccine deals for an additional twenty-three million people.
Under the two deals, Novavax will provide vaccines for twenty million people, which are expected to be ready for inoculation by the second quarter, and Pfizer will ship enough vaccine doses for three million citizens.
“We’ve been in discussions on speeding up the shipment . . . and acquiring additional vaccines during the first half due to growing uncertainties in vaccine supply in the first half of the year,” Chung said.
Following the new contracts, the Seoul government has secured enough coronavirus vaccines to inoculate seventy-nine million people under the World Health Organization’s global vaccine COVAX Facility project and separate contracts with foreign drug firms.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.