South Korea Confirms COVID-19 Second Wave, Health Minister Warns of 'Grave Situation'
Country sees spike in new coronavirus cases after lifting lockdown measures
Officials in South Korea have confirmed that the country has been hit with a second wave of the coronavirus following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
On revealing the news this week, the South Korean health minister has warned of a "grave situation" in the country.
Park Neung-hoo, the minister of health and welfare, confirmed a total of 90 imported cases were identified over the past week.
The figure shows a sharp rise from the previous week's 48.
"The government faces a grave situation as health officials need not only to contain locally transmitted infections but also manage imported cases," Park said during a government meeting on COVID-19 responses.
The mayor of capital city Seoul is now threatening to reimpose strict lockdowns and social distancing measures to tackle the new outbreak.
In a separate briefing, Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the country was now going through a second wave of the virus, according to reports.
The news follows a surge in late February and March centered around the southeastern city of Daegu.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), reported 17 new infections - 11 local and 6 imported - in the last 24 hours, which raised the nation's total to 12,438.
The death toll remained unchanged at 280.
It comes as the mayor of South Korea's capital fears the country is losing control over a virus resurgence and said Seoul will reimpose stronger social distancing measures if the daily jump in infections doesn't come below an average of 30 over the next three days.
"If Seoul gets penetrated (by the virus), the entire Republic of Korea gets penetrated," Park Won-soon said Monday in a televised briefing, referring to South Korea by its formal name.
He also lamented what he described as the complacency of citizens in social distancing, citing an increase in public transportation usage that he says has been approaching last year's levels in recent weeks.
Citing research by health experts, Park said the country could be possibly reporting as much as 800 new cases a day a month from now if it fails to stem current trends in transmissions.
He said the basic reproduction number of virus carriers, which measures the number of infections caused by an individual, has reached nearly 1.8 for the period between April 30 and June 11. Any number above 1 indicates a growing epidemic.
The country has been reporting around 40 to 50 new cases per day since late May, mostly from the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea's 51 million people live.
South Korea was reporting around 500 new cases per day in early March but managed to control the outbreak with an active testing and contact tracing campaign.
Today the city of Daejeon, south of the capital, announced it would ban gatherings in public spaces such as museums and libraries after a number of small virus clusters were discovered.