Photos: S. Korea warns of flare-up after biggest Covid spike in months

South Korea is going to ban large public gatherings and shut down churches and nightspots in the greater Seoul area amid the sharpest surge in viral infections in nearly six months. Churches in the country have emerged as major clusters of infections, with many failing to maintain mask adherence and social distancign. In a nationally televised announcement on August 18, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said strengthening social distancing restrictions for the Seoul metropolitan area, which is home to half of the country’s 51 million people, was inevitable because a failure to slow transmissions there could result in a major outbreak nationwide.

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST 8 Photos
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Women wearing face masks talk to each other at the Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, South Korea on August 17. South Korea warned on August 17 of a looming novel coronavirus crisis as new outbreaks flared, including one linked to a church where more than 300 members of the congregation have been infected but hundreds more are reluctant to get tested. (Ahn Young-joon / AP)

Women wearing face masks talk to each other at the Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, South Korea on August 17. South Korea warned on August 17 of a looming novel coronavirus crisis as new outbreaks flared, including one linked to a church where more than 300 members of the congregation have been infected but hundreds more are reluctant to get tested. (Ahn Young-joon / AP)

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST
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Public officials disinfect the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, on August 18. The new outbreak is linked to the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul and is the country’s biggest in nearly six months. A ban on church services was lifted in April though attendees are required to register and sit apart. (Lee Ji-eun / Yonhap via AP)

Public officials disinfect the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, on August 18. The new outbreak is linked to the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul and is the country’s biggest in nearly six months. A ban on church services was lifted in April though attendees are required to register and sit apart. (Lee Ji-eun / Yonhap via AP)

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST
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People wearing face masks pass by posters about precautions against the coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul on August 18. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 246 new cases as of midnight on August 18, mostly in the Seoul metropolitan area, marking the fifth day of a three-digit tally. (Ahn Young-joon / AP)

People wearing face masks pass by posters about precautions against the coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul on August 18. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 246 new cases as of midnight on August 18, mostly in the Seoul metropolitan area, marking the fifth day of a three-digit tally. (Ahn Young-joon / AP)

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST
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A woman wears a mask inside a glass-covered bus stop in which a thermal imaging camera, UV sterilizer, air conditioner, CCTV and digital signage are set, to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in Seoul on August 14. South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories but it has nevertheless battled persistent spikes in infections. The latest cases brought its total infections to 15,761 including 306 deaths. (Heo Ran / REUTERS)

A woman wears a mask inside a glass-covered bus stop in which a thermal imaging camera, UV sterilizer, air conditioner, CCTV and digital signage are set, to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in Seoul on August 14. South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories but it has nevertheless battled persistent spikes in infections. The latest cases brought its total infections to 15,761 including 306 deaths. (Heo Ran / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST
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A health official wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant at a market near the Sarang Jeil Church, a new coronavirus infection cluster, in Seoul on August 18. The outbreak at the Seoul church has revived fears seen in February when authorities struggled to contain an outbreak that emerged in a secretive Christian sect in the city of Daegu and became the country’s deadliest cluster. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

A health official wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant at a market near the Sarang Jeil Church, a new coronavirus infection cluster, in Seoul on August 18. The outbreak at the Seoul church has revived fears seen in February when authorities struggled to contain an outbreak that emerged in a secretive Christian sect in the city of Daegu and became the country’s deadliest cluster. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST
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Public officials disinfect the roadway to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in front of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul on August 18. South Korea will ban large public gatherings and shut down churches and nightspots in the greater capital area following the alarming surge in coronavirus cases. (AP)

Public officials disinfect the roadway to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in front of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul on August 18. South Korea will ban large public gatherings and shut down churches and nightspots in the greater capital area following the alarming surge in coronavirus cases. (AP)

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST
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A health official (R) guides visitors at a COVID-19 testing station in Seoul on August 18. “We’re seeing the current situation as an initial stage of a large-scale transmission,” KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a press briefing. “We’re facing a crisis where if the current spread isn’t controlled, it would bring an exponential rise in cases, which could in turn lead to the collapse of our medical system and enormous economic damage.” (Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

A health official (R) guides visitors at a COVID-19 testing station in Seoul on August 18. “We’re seeing the current situation as an initial stage of a large-scale transmission,” KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a press briefing. “We’re facing a crisis where if the current spread isn’t controlled, it would bring an exponential rise in cases, which could in turn lead to the collapse of our medical system and enormous economic damage.” (Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST
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A woman wearing a mask walks past members of conservative civic groups taking path in an anti-government protest over fresh restrictions in Seoul on August 15. As in the Daegu case, authorities are facing some reluctance in cooperation and difficulty in tracking some members of the congregation. The outbreak led to a tightening of social distancing rules on August 16 despite protests. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

A woman wearing a mask walks past members of conservative civic groups taking path in an anti-government protest over fresh restrictions in Seoul on August 15. As in the Daegu case, authorities are facing some reluctance in cooperation and difficulty in tracking some members of the congregation. The outbreak led to a tightening of social distancing rules on August 16 despite protests. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2020 06:46 PM IST
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