South Korea has reported its smallest rise in coronavirus infections in three weeks as tighter restrictions cap a second wave, Reuters reports.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) recorded 167 cases in the past 24 hours, down from 168 the previous day.

That brings the country’s total infections to 21,177, with 334 Covid-19-related deaths. Success in crushing early outbreaks was partially reversed after a wave of infections among members of a church spread when they attended a political rally in mid-August.

Daily infections have hovered below 200 for four days after peaking at 441 in late August, as tougher social distancing curbs have taken effect.

The measures have included unprecedented restrictions on eateries in the Seoul area, where the spread is concentrated, banning onsite dining after 9pm and limiting coffee and bakery franchises to takeout and delivery all day.

The government on Friday extended the curbs until September 13, saying more time is needed to induce sharper drops in new infections.

Visitors wearing masks to avoid the spread of Covid-19 fill out a form which is mandatory to get into a hospital in Seoul, South Korea, August 26, 2020. Credit: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

“With stricter social distancing rules, new coronavirus cases have continued to drift down and we expect to see drops in new cases,” Sohn Young-rae, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, said in a briefing.

Sohn urged people to continue to follow social distancing guidelines for another week by refraining from going outside and having meetings to further curb the outbreak.

Health authorities recommended that people should not return to their hometowns or visit relatives for the Chuseok holiday, Korea’s Thanksgiving holiday and one of the country’s largest, which starts at the end of September and lasts until early October.

Health authorities said they are not planning on restricting people from going to their hometowns during the holiday.

South Korea’s efforts to fight the coronavirus have been complicated by a strike of 16,000 interns and resident doctors who oppose the government’s plans to reform the medical sector to better handle future epidemics.

The country’s top medical body agreed on Friday with the government to end the walkout, only to face an immediate backlash from trainee doctors who rejected the deal and continued the strike.
The trainee physicians are likely to return to work on Monday, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday.

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