|A citizen gets a virus test at a makeshift clinic set up at Gwanak public health center in Seoul, Monday. Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
Health authorities advised companies Monday to encourage their employees to take summer vacation in September to prevent holiday destinations from being overcrowded and thus prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They also asked businesses to split lunch hours into two or three sessions.
Such decisions came as fear is growing over sustained rises of local infections and imported cases, which may trigger another COVID-19 outbreak in the summer.
"In Korea, the summer vacation period is concentrated on a certain period of summer. More than 70 percent of employees of private companies took holidays between late July and early August last year, so the government has decided to advise them to avoid the peak season," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said during a regular virus response briefing at the government complex in Sejong.
According to a survey conducted by the Korea Employers Federation last year, 536 out of 751 companies, or 71.4 percent, responded that summer vacation was concentrated from late July to early August.
He then said the government also discussed ways to distribute lunchtime to reduce restaurant congestion.
"We hope employers and managers will cooperate so that their workers can use their vacations freely even after the peak season and have lunch divided into two-shift systems," he said.
Health authorities remain vigilant over the continued rise of local infections especially tied to churches in the capital area, although the daily new virus infection cases fell below 50, Sunday.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), 42 new cases, including 30 local infections, were reported, Sunday, raising the country's total caseload to 12,757. Among the 30 local infections, 21 were detected in densely populated Seoul and surrounding areas including Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, west of Seoul. Daejeon and Daegu had two each, and Busan and North Jeolla Province had one each. The total death toll remains at 282 as no additional deaths were reported.
The KCDC warned of a second wave in the Seoul capital area ― Seoul City, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon ― as it makes up 22.2 percent of the total cases across the country.
Infection clusters linked to churches in the greater Seoul area have interrupted the country's efforts to contain the further spread of the virus.
Cases traced to a major church in Gwanak-gu, southern Seoul, reached 27 as of Sunday. The infections were connected to close contacts via choir activities and a two-day workshop program, the KCDC said.
The recent infection clusters at Wangsung Church in Gwanak-gu and at Jesus Younggwang Church in Anyang, south of Seoul, added one and four more cases, Sunday, respectively, bringing the total caseloads to 28 and 22. The former has 1,700 members while the latter has 80.
While most churches comply with the government quarantine protocols for mask wearing and social distancing, the virus is still spreading through small circles of meetings among congregants.
Meanwhile, the country is also struggling to contain new cases coming from overseas, as it reported an additional 12, raising the total of such cases to 1,562.