Health authorities say the upcoming national holiday will pose the biggest challenge yet for their disease containment efforts, with millions of South Koreans expected to hit the road for Chuseok between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4.
Popular vacation towns around the country are once again on alert over an influx of travelers potentially bringing the novel coronavirus with them.
“Jeju has been relatively spared by the coronavirus due to ramped-up security around its airports and seaports. We intend to keep it that way,” said the island province’s Gov. Won Hee-ryong on Monday. With only 58 coronavirus cases to date, according to the latest official tally, Jeju accounts for less than 1 percent of the nationwide total.
“Chuseok will likely be the biggest challenge facing Jeju this fall,” Won said.
As border measures in place in most countries have put a damper on international travel, the southern island is a prime destination for vacationers looking to travel within the nation’s borders.
“Do not travel if you are sick, or have been around someone who is,” Won said in a message to prospective vacationers. The Jeju governor has made similar pleas ahead of every holiday since the pandemic began.
But data shows that the summer vacation season never actually took off this year, with the number of beachgoers down by 60.3 percent compared with last year.
Even those who decide to travel are doing so in coronavirus-conscious ways, according to a 28-year-old Seoulite who has been to Jeju twice since the disease arrived in the country.
“I think most people are aware of the risks and choosing to spend the holidays responsibly,” he said. “On both trips, I tried to limit my itinerary to the hotel, the rental car and some remote spots around the beaches.”
Health officials recommend staying home over Chuseok and forgoing nonessential outings and gatherings.
“But if you must travel, make it safer by complying with the basics — face masks, social distancing and hand hygiene,” said senior health official Yoon Tae-ho in Friday’s news briefing.
Korea added 153 more cases — 145 locally transmitted and eight imported — in the 24 hours ending Thursday at midnight, pushing the cumulative number of reported cases to 22,657.
Five more patients died. So far, there have been 377 known deaths related to COVID-19, which puts the overall fatality rate at 1.65 percent. For those over 80, the rate is 20.6 percent.
As of Thursday, 92.4 percent of the country’s 518 critical care beds were full, leaving only 39 available. At designated coronavirus hospitals, whose combined bed capacity is 4,120, the occupancy rate was 34.4 percent.
The number of recoveries reached 19,771, up 228 from a day prior, bringing the recovery rate to 86.7 percent. Since late June, the bar for discharging patients has been adjusted to free up beds. Patients who remain free of symptoms for 10 consecutive days after diagnosis are deemed officially recovered and released from medical care.
Korea has carried out 2,206,365 tests since Jan. 3. This translates to around 43,000 tests performed per million people. Of all tests taken, around 1 percent yielded positive results.
SOURCE: The Korea Herald