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South Korea ramps up coronavirus restrictions

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COVID-19 forces ban on gatherings in Seoul

South Korea has announced it will ramp up coronavirus restrictions across the country starting Sunday to try and control a growing outbreak.

The government had imposed the Level 2 guidelines of the three-tier system only in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province from August 16, but it made a decision to expand it to the whole country amid the recent surge in virus infections.

- 49 more patients released from coronavirus treatment, total now at 14,169South Korea's daily new virus cases surpassed 300 again Saturday, and infections were reported in all major cities and provinces, as concerns are growing that the country is entering a new phase in the pandemic with infections spreading throughout the country. Indoor gatherings of 50 or more people and outdoor events involving 100 or more people are strictly prohibited.

School attendance will be limited to one-third of capacity in kindergartens, primary and middle schools. Schools in areas that reported cluster infections will be required to switch to online classes from August 26. Public institutions such as museums and libraries will close, and civil servants will work on staggered schedules, while private companies will also be recommended to space out their employees as well.

In Seoul, which has already entered Level Two, street rallies of 10 or more people are banned, which is equivalent to a Level Three measure. Kim Bum-soo wraps up the latest situation.

The Sarang Jeil Church-linked cases mark the largest cluster infection since more than 5,000 virus cases traced to the minor religious sect of Shincheonji were reported in Daegu in late February and early March.

The country added 332 more COVID-19 cases, including 315 local infections, raising the total caseload to 17,002, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Of the patients identified in the past two weeks, 773, or 32 percent, of them were aged 65 or older. Schools have to suspend all on-site classes, and sports games are banned. "The public needs to effectively respond to the rising risks".

The government said it would prudently consider shifting to a Level Three measure, which could prompt massive changes in everyday life.

"We are at a very precarious stage where we could see the beginning of a nationwide second wave", said health and welfare minister Park Neung-hoo at a press briefing.

"If the citizens and the government team up, we can overcome the current crisis".

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