July 26 — 7 am — Seoul continues at Level 4, rest of the country moves to Level 3
Infections: 188,848 | Cleared: 166,375 | Under treatment: 20,400 | Deaths: 2,073
(As of Jul 25, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
The daily average of new Covid-19 cases in South Korea rose again last week (July 18–24) to 1,465, up from 1,348 the week before. Most new cases continue to be found in Greater Seoul, though the numbers in the region have fallen slightly since the implementation of Level 4 social distancing measures there. Cases in the rest of the country have increased, however, now making up 34% of all cases nationwide. The KDCA announced that Level 4 restrictions will continue for another two weeks in the greater Seoul area, and the rest of the nation will move to Level 3, starting Tuesday July 27.
Meanwhile, 32.9% of the population have been vaccinated with at least the first dose, and 13.4% have finished their vaccinations. People in their fifties will begin to get vaccinated this week, starting with the 55–59 age bracket. The 50 to 54-year-olds will follow from next month.
Jul 19 — 7am — 4-person limits to private gatherings nationwide
Infections: 177,951 | Cleared: 158,953 | Under treatment: 16,941 | Deaths: 2,057
(As of Jul 18, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
The upward trend continued this week. The daily average of new cases in the week of July 11 to 17 was 1,349, up from 992 last week when Level 4 was announced for Greater Seoul. Since that announcement traffic in the region has fallen by 11%. But with the summer holidays, traffic in other regions outside the capital area increased by 9%. And as the number of cases continue to rise in places besides Seoul, local government authorities and the KDCA have agreed to implement 4-person limits to private gatherings nationwide for the next two weeks, even in regions under otherwise less restrictive social distancing levels.
July 12—Officially the fourth wave, Level Four in Greater Seoul
Infections: 168,046 | Cleared: 153,760 | Under treatment: 12,243 | Deaths: 2,043
(As of Jul 12, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
South Korea’s Covid-19 situation has changed pretty quickly in the past week. The number of new cases broke record highs for three consecutive days, reaching a peak on Saturday with 1,378. The numbers stayed high even on the weekend. Most of the cases were found in Greater Seoul, but other cities and regions have also seen an increase in cases. The source of infection for almost 32% of the patients cannot be traced. Tracing and testing has been difficult, because the transmissions have been mostly among the non-symptomatic younger populations and through individual contacts rather than the massive clusters that were seen in previous Covid waves. The proportion of the Delta variant is also rapidly increasing, and the vaccination rate has been stagnant in this transition period as Korea waits for more vaccines to arrive.
The situation is serious enough that the KDCA announced last Friday, earlier than scheduled, that Level Four in the new social distancing scheme would be implemented in the greater Seoul region for the next two weeks, starting July 12. This primarily limits private gatherings to a maximum of four people before 6pm and only two after 6pm, except for cohabiting family members. Night clubs and bars should close, restaurants and cafes can only operate until 10pm, and sporting events should go ahead without spectators. Religious services may not be held in person, but family events such as funerals and weddings are allowed to admit up to 49 family members. Schools should transition online from Wednesday July 14.
July 5—7am—Keeping masks on in Greater Seoul
Infections: 160,084 | Cleared: 149,614 | Under treatment: 8,444 | Deaths: 2,026
(As of Jul 5, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
Last week (June 27–July 3) the average number of new Covid-19 cases per day spiked up to 655. More than 80% of these new cases were found in the greater Seoul region. The R number in the region is currently at 1.25 and the Delta variant is also spreading quickly. The government has therefore decided to delay implementing the new social distancing scheme in the capital for at least a week. And yesterday restrictions were tightened even further, requiring masks both indoors and outdoors in Greater Seoul, regardless of one’s vaccination status.
If the average number of new cases remains this high, the capital region will have to follow Level 3 rules in the new social distancing scheme. These restrict private gatherings to four people, and events to 49 people. Night clubs, bars, restaurants, and cafes must close by 10pm.