JEJU, May 28 (Korea Bizwire) — Jeju Island, South Korea’s most popular holiday destination, will raise its anti-COVID-19 social distancing measures by one notch to Level 2 at the end of this month to cope with growing local transmissions of the coronavirus, the provincial government said Friday.
The Level 2 posture, the third highest in the country’s five-tier COVID-19 alert system, will be enforced for two weeks beginning Monday, the government said, noting the operating hours of facilities used by the general public will be reduced and gathering limits will be imposed under the new rules.
Jeju will become the nation’s third region outside the greater Seoul area to be put under the Level 2 scheme against the coronavirus after Chuncheon of the northeastern province of Gangwon and the southeastern city of Ulsan.
The island, increasingly favored by locals as an alternative to overseas travel amid the prolonged pandemic, has reported a daily average of 12.6 COVID-19 infections over the past week, raising its infectious disease reproductive ratio from 0.8 on May 19 to 1.4 on Wednesday.
If the ratio exceeds 1, it is a warning about ongoing spread of local transmissions.
The southern resort island reported an additional seven COVID-19 cases Friday, raising its cumulative total to 1,002. A total of 581 infections have been reported this year, including 288 in May.
Forty-four people, 15 percent of this month’s tally, are under an epidemiological investigation due to their untraceable infection routes, officials said.
Cluster infections have also occurred on the island recently, including 66 cases traced to a university sports team, 22 linked to a wedding event, group infections of 17 family members and 12 cases traced to a public bath, they said.
“Previously, infections were centered mostly on tourists and Jeju residents who traveled outside the island. Recently, however, local transmissions are spreading fast among families, acquaintances and co-workers,” Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong said in a news briefing.
He said the planned upgrade of the social distancing level is inevitable in consideration of the latest increases of confirmed cases, the province’s medical resources and other factors.
The governor then asked all residents to refrain from unnecessary travel and gatherings at least for the next two weeks.
Under Level 2, entertainment facilities, indoor sports facilities and karaoke establishments, for instance, will be forced to close from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following day. Restaurants and cafes will be only allowed to offer takeout and delivery during the same hours.
Religious facilities will be restricted from accepting more than 20 percent of their full seating capacities, while private academies and cram schools will also be subject to stricter distancing rules.
The current ban on gatherings of five or more people will be maintained under Level 2.