South Korea is preparing to bring back some semblance to normalcy for its citizens. Starting Wednesday, May 6, 2020, the country is set to relax their social distancing rules and switch to "routine-life distancing" instead, given how its government efforts were able to effectively curb the spread of COVID-19 outbreak.
"It is safest to maintain the intensive social distancing, but it isn’t easy realistically. We need to find a middle ground," says Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun during a televised meeting of government officials last Sunday, May 3. "[It] will allow businesses to resume at facilities in phases that had remained closed up until now, and also allow gatherings and events to take place assuming they follow disinfection guidelines."
Under these relaxed guidelines, the South Korean government will gradually allow the reopening of what were previously considered high-risk public facilities, including churches, national parks, and museums.
Sports matches will also be allowed to resume, but without the live audience. "Some professional sports, including baseball and soccer, are due to start their new seasons this week after being postponed over virus fears, although the matches will be played behind closed doors," Channel News Asia reports.
Meanwhile, schools are preparing to reopen as students will be allowed to return to class around mid-May.
The Prime Minister, however, clarifies that "people [still] need to comply with basic guidelines, such as maintaining at least two meters of distance from each other." He further notes that "the new guidelines are more of a compromise amid rising social and economic burdens sparked by the pandemic."
In an interview with KBS News, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo insists that the transition still requires citizens to observe personal quarantine and proper hygiene. “The word 'distancing' is still in the term 'routine-life distancing.' Our social distancing [campaign] called for abstaining from or minimizing social outings and gatherings and strict quarantine measures if such gatherings or events were held. The new 'routine-life distancing' basically allows such events that we abstained from. But we still ask for [personal] quarantine measures," he explains. "Until a cure or a vaccine is developed, there is, in fact, nothing that can prevent the spread of the epidemic. When we don't have a cure or a vaccine, social distancing is the most effective way to prevent spread of the disease."
As of May 4, South Korea has a total of 10,801 positive COVID-19 cases, only eight of which were reported in the last 24 hours. The country’s death toll stands at 252 with a fatality rate of 2.33 percent.
The country, which once recorded a peak of 909 new cases on February 29, credits its extensive "trace, test, and treat" programme for having been able to flatten the curve and prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
"We can be proud of the quarantine success that came while maintaining the principles of democracy, openness, and transparency. But the war against COVID-19 is neither over nor is it expected to be concluded in a short period. We must now accept the [existence] of COVID-19 [around us] and create a new routine of living with COVID-19,” says Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun.
In addition, he states that the social distancing measures are expected to resume should signs of high infection risks resurface.
Locally, the Philippines has a total of 9485 active cases, 1315 recoveries, and 623 deaths. Visit our COVID-19 case tracker to check the latest stats daily.
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