Renewed outbreaks in China and South Korea show the risk of reopening

Renewed outbreaks in China and South Korea show the risk of reopening
Reopening measures has met a big concern. Source: Al Jazeera
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Daily US Times: While speaking on Sunday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said: “It’s not over until it’s over.” He said this after a new cluster of coronavirus cases emerged in Seoul, sparking fear of a second wave of infections in the East Asian country. South Korea was on track to loosen restrictions, but the new emerging situation put a big question mark on reopening.

South Korea was among the first countries that had dealt with severe coronavirus pandemic. After weeks of social distancing measures and careful surveillance, the country is about to ease the restrictions. But the emerging number of cases put an end to that, for now, with Moon warning his people “we must never lower our guard regarding epidemic prevention.”

China, the epicenter of the outbreak, is also introducing renewed restrictions after two cities reported new cases of the virus. After 11 newly confirmed cases, Shulan, in Jilin province in the country’s far northeast, has been put under lockdown. Jilin borders both Russia and North Korea, and concerns have previously been raised over imported cases from overseas causing a renewed outbreak.

The more alarming news is that Wuhan, the city from where the virus emerged in December last year, has reported a new cluster of infection. The central Chinese city was the first city in the world to enter into lockdown, only returning to relative normality late last month after 76-days.

Wuhan officials has said on Monday that five new cases had been confirmed in the city, none of which were imported from overseas. Though this is relatively far small numbers from the figures at the beginning of the crisis, or those being reported daily across other hot spots of the world, the apparent ability of the virus to continue spreading undetected — especially in a city as intensely surveilled and restricted as Wuhan — will lead to concerns about the viability of reopening.

On Sunday, Mi Feng, spokesman for China’s National Health Commission, urged people to “stay alert and step up personal protection against the virus.” He urged to the residents that testing should be done to anyone exhibit virus symptoms. He added that the new clusters were a reminder to avoid social gatherings and seek medical advice or testing should anyone exhibit virus symptoms.

Before the latest cases, the number of new infections in both South Korea and China had slowed to a trickle, with local transmission appearing to be halted. While questions can be raised over the accuracy of China’s numbers, or the certainty anyone can have that all cases have been detected and contained in a country so large, South Korea’s response has been hailed as one of the best globally, aided in part by the country’s relatively small size and easily-controlled borders.

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