Concerns about a possible outbreak of a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic are beginning to grow in the Republic of Korea. Whereas fewer than ten cases were recorded daily until the middle of August, the number of daily positive tests increased to nearly 400 after August 15. This growth is due primarily to the spread of the virus among people attending religious services.
As of 23 August, six primary hotspots had been identified, including five churches and one café. Tracking of the virus is further complicated by the fact that most of those who have been infected are older, are devout believers and consider COVID-19 to be government propaganda that is being disseminated for the purpose of suppressing anti-government protests, all of which greatly reduces the rate of cooperation.
Second-degree social distancing has been reintroduced, restricting gatherings of more than fifty people in enclosed spaces. Due to the spread of the virus from Seoul to other parts of the country, the government is considering tightening and introducing third-degree social distancing limiting gatherings to ten people.
Conversely, e-commerce and delivery services continue to thrive due to COVID-19. Construction companies that have sufficient orders and fewer restrictions due to reduced operation are also doing well. The supply of face masks seems to have stabilised after the first wave, the rationing system has been terminated, and exports have even been resumed.
Even though the primary problem is currently local spread of the virus and there is a minimum number of cases coming from abroad, citizens will not soon see the lifting of the mandatory 14-day paid government-imposed quarantine for the general public. Although some flights between Seoul and Europe, including Prague, have partially resumed in recent weeks, carriers will continue to operate only to a limited extent due to weak demand.
The author works at the foreign office of CzechTrade and CzechInvest Korea in Seoul.