South Korea returns largely to normal as outbreak controlled
People wearing face masks walk through an underground shopping area in Seoul on May 6, 2020. South Korea returned largely to normal on May 6 as workers went back to offices, and museums and libraries reopened under eased social distancing rules after new coronavirus cases dropped to a trickle.
AFP/Jung Yeon-je
South Korea returns largely to normal as outbreak controlled
(Agence France-Presse) - May 7, 2020 - 8:55am

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea returned largely to normal Wednesday as workers went back to offices, and museums and libraries reopened under eased social distancing rules after new coronavirus cases dropped to a trickle.

The South endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China and while it never imposed a compulsory lockdown, strict social distancing had been widely observed since March.

Employees were urged to work from home where possible while the new school term was postponed from its March start.

Scores of events — from K-pop concerts to sports seasons — were delayed or cancelled, while museums and galleries were closed and religious services suspended. 

But the South appears to have brought its outbreak under control thanks to an extensive "trace, test and treat" programme that has drawn widespread praise.

In a population of 51 million, its death toll is little more than 250, and new cases have slowed to just a handful — 13 in the past three days, all of them arriving international passengers. More than 90 of the South's imported cases are returning citizens.

At least 100 people visited the National Museum of Korea in Seoul on Wednesday morning, and the first visitors of the day — a married couple -- were given a bouquet of flowers by staff.

"Many of our colleagues also came back to work today, so we are very excited about the reopening, we are very happy," museum spokeswoman Lee Hyun-ju told AFP.

Some workers were bittersweet about going back to the office.

"I wanted to go home as soon as I sat down at my desk in the office today. But there is also this weird sense of stability," wrote one Twitter poster. 

Another tweeted: "I feel like my holidays are now over."

The South reported two new infections on Wednesday, taking the total to 10,806, the Korea Centers for Disease Control said.

Some professional sports, including baseball and soccer, are starting their new seasons this week after being postponed over virus fears, although the matches will be played behind closed doors.

Schools are to reopen in stages starting from May 13.

Under what Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun referred to as "everyday life quarantine", South Koreans are still encouraged to wear face masks and wash their hands frequently, among other recommendations.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 23, 2020 - 8:58pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

November 23, 2020 - 8:58pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,388,590 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Monday.

At least 58,647,610 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 37,298,300 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

November 23, 2020 - 3:25pm

Canada's biggest city entered lockdown on Monday in the latest bid to curb coronavirus infections, with case numbers surging across North America even as US officials said vaccinations could be available within weeks.

Encouraging results from several vaccine trials have raised hopes of a decisive shift in the battle against a disease that has claimed around 1.4 million lives worldwide in the last year.

But seesawing restrictions and lockdowns in countries that successfully contained earlier outbreaks — shattering lives and economies in the process — have highlighted the ongoing risk of contagion.

Toronto banned private indoor gatherings and capped the size of weddings and funerals for four weeks from midnight, with officials warning that hospitals risked being overwhelmed without quick action.

"I've been clear on this: the situation is extremely serious and further action is required," Ontario premier Doug Ford had told journalists ahead of the lockdown. — AFP

November 22, 2020 - 11:14am

The United States grants emergency approval for a synthetic antibody therapy against COVID-19 that was notably used to treat President Donald Trump.

"Authorizing these monoclonal antibody therapies may help outpatients avoid hospitalization and alleviate the burden on our health care system," says Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. — AFP

November 21, 2020 - 4:02pm

The Department of Health reports 1,791 additional cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in the Philippines to 416,852.

Of those, 33,224 are registered as active cases. There are 328 new recoveries and 55 more deaths.

November 21, 2020 - 11:02am

The Washington Post reports that the coronavirus tests imported from South Korea by the governor of the US state of Maryland were flawed and ended up not being used.

The newspaper says Maryland Governor Larry Hogan spent $9.46 million in April to import 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea.

But the tests turned out to be flawed and the state "quietly" paid the same South Korean company an additional $2.5 million for 500,000 replacement tests, the Post says. — AFP

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