SEOUL: As Mediterranean beaches and Las Vegas casinos laid out plans to welcome tourists again, South Korea announced a spike in new infections on Wednesday and considered reimposing social distancing restrictions, revealing the setbacks ahead for other nations on the road to reopening.
The European Union, meanwhile, unveiled a huge stimulus package for the blocs ailing economies, as European nations scrambled to emulate South Korea’s widely praised strategy of tracing, testing and treating coronavirus victims, which tamed its outbreak and made it a model for the world.Across the Atlantic, the pandemic claimed new victims as the confirmed US death toll approached 100,000 the highest by far in the world and nations from Mexico to Chile to Brazil struggled with surging cases and overwhelmed hospitals.
In South Korea, 40 newly confirmed cases the biggest daily jump in nearly 50 days raised alarms as millions of children returned to school on Wednesday.
All but four of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul region, where officials are scrambling to stop transmissions linked to nightclubs, karaoke rooms and a massive e-commerce warehouse. All were reopened last month when social distancing measures were relaxed.
The country’s top infectious disease expert said South Korea may need to reimpose social distancing restrictions because it's becoming increasingly difficult for health workers to track the spread of Covid-19 amid warmer weather and eased attitudes on distancing.
We will do our best to trace contacts and implement preventive measures, but there’s a limit to such efforts, said Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Young people have a very broad range of activity, so at the point of diagnosis, there’s already a lot of exposure. ... The number of people or locations we have to trace are increasing geometrically, he added.
Seoul and nearby cities in recent weeks have re-closed thousands of bars, karaoke rooms and other entertainment venues to slow the spread of the virus.
Britain, which has recorded more deaths than any other European country over 37,000 announced the details of its own test and trace plans to send out 25,000 workers to find the contacts of those who test positive. Germany said it would extend pandemic-related restrictions on personal contacts until June 29 as it cautiously lifts lockdown measures.
As many countries in Asia and Europe make progress in containing the pandemic, reversing its devastating economic fallout becomes a top priority.
Even as the 27-nation EU unveiled its recovery plan, the bloc remained deeply divided over what strings should be attached to the funds, with frugal members such as Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden pushing for loans rather than grants to form the backbone of the package.
The International Labor Organisation director-general, Guy Ryder, warned of the danger that young workers aged 15 to 28 could face, from the inability to get proper training or access to jobs, which could extend well beyond the pandemic and last far into their working careers.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2020