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South Korea re-imposes some coronavirus restrictions after spike in new cases

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A health worker administers a COVID-19 test in South Korea

South Korean health authorities said on Friday they would request imports of Gilead Sciences Inc's anti-viral drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19, as new outbreaks of the disease flare as social distancing restrictions are eased.

Restrictions had been lifted across the country on 6 May.

"The next two weeks are crucial to prevent the spread of the infection in the metropolitan area", Park said, adding: "We will have to return to social distancing if we fail".

The Korea Centers for Disease Control said it has linked at least 82 infections to workers there and was testing 4,000 more people who may have been exposed. He called on people to avoid gatherings as much as possible over the next two weeks.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, the KCDC director, said the country may need to step up its restrictions again as it had become increasingly hard for health workers to track transmissions amid increasing public activity.

Social distancing rules were relaxed and the country was returning largely to normal until this week, when it re-imposed some measures in the capital and the surrounding region following fresh clusters of cases.

The company said it closed the centre on Monday and began the strongest disinfection measures recommended by authorities.

"We plan to discuss measures for logistics centers run by online retailers and inspect them", he said during an interagency meeting. "We are also disinfecting goods ordered by customers before delivering them".

Thursday's total is almost double the 40 new cases reported Wednesday, which was the highest figure in 49 days. More than two million children returned to class yesterday, the latest in a phased opening of schools.

KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said the country may need to reimpose social distancing restrictions, saying it was becoming increasingly hard for health workers to track transmissions amid increasing public activity.

The announcement came Thursday after South Korea reported 79 new confirmed cases, its biggest daily number in almost two months.

South Korea never ordered severe lockdowns but has been lauded for its aggressive testing and tracing efforts that helped drive the daily number of cases from a peak of 909 on February 29 to single digits earlier this month. No new deaths were reported and just 73 people remained in treatment, while another 518 remain under isolation and observation for either suspected of having the virus or testing positive without showing any symptoms.

"We will do our best to trace contacts and implement preventive measures, but there's a limit to such efforts", she said. "There's a need to maximize social distancing in areas where the virus is circulating, to force people to avoid public facilities and other crowded spaces".

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