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‘Third wave is not over’: South Korean PM warns against easing anti-coronavirus restrictions as infection numbers grow

‘Third wave is not over’: South Korean PM warns against easing anti-coronavirus restrictions as infection numbers grow
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has warned against the loosening of social distancing rules as the country experiences a new surge in Covid-19 numbers. Seoul is set to begin its mass vaccination campaign next week.

Speaking during a televised government meeting on Wednesday, Chung urged the public to strictly observe the existing rules. Earlier this week, Seoul eased some restrictions, including lifting the ban on nighttime entertainment facilities as well as extending the restaurant curfew by one hour to 10 pm.

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Restrictions were relaxed to help businesses struggling with the impact of the anti-coronavirus measures, Chung said, warning that the spread of the disease continues.

“We've eased distancing to help small business owners maintain their livelihoods, not to keep a slack rein on the virus,” he stated. “The third wave is not over ... now is never the time to loosen up.”

South Korea has already seen a new spike in infections. On Tuesday, it registered some 600 new cases, the highest daily tally in 39 days. Still, the country remains rather mildly affected by the coronavirus with some 84,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths registered since the beginning of the pandemic. The figures are quite low compared to those seen in the worst-hit countries, particularly given South Korea’s massive population of nearly 52 million.

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Seoul is also preparing to begin its mass-vaccination campaign that is expected to target the nation’s healthcare workers during its first stage. On Wednesday, South Korea’s drug safety ministry gave the final approval for a shipment of 1.57 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

The first batch of the jab, produced locally by SK Bioscience, is expected to be delivered next Wednesday with mass vaccination scheduled to start on February 26.

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