S.Korea virus cases hit 9-month high

South Koreans are urged to hold online celebrations for events such as Christmas parties.
South Koreans are urged to hold online celebrations for events such as Christmas parties.

South Koreans are being urged to cancel Christmas and New Year parties as daily coronavirus cases hit a nine-month high and the government considers imposing tighter social-distancing rules to halt a third wave of infections.

Health authorities reported 629 new coronavirus infections on Friday, the highest in South Korea since a first wave peaked in February and early March.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the situation was critical and the government would decide on Sunday whether to upgrade restrictions to include the closure of karaoke bars and limits on religious gatherings to just 20 people.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said 463 or more than three quarters of the latest locally transmitted cases were from Seoul and nearby areas. South Korea has now reported a total of 36,332 infections, with 536 deaths.

Health authorities called on people to cancel all year-end gatherings and parties during a month-long "special virus prevention period" from December 7 to January 3.

"Please hold online celebrations especially for Christmas, religious events and New Year sunrise festivals if possible, and we urge you to not host any parties or events at hotels," health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing.

Australian Associated Press