A 'second wave' of COVID-19 hits South Korea sooner than expected

People wearing face masks walk through an underground shopping area in Seoul on May 6, 2020
(Image credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

South Korean officials say the country is experiencing a "second wave" of COVID-19, which came sooner than anticipated.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Monday said a second wave of coronavirus infections in the Seoul area began in early May following a holiday weekend, Reuters reports.

"In the metropolitan area, we believe that the first wave was from March to April as well as February to March," Jeong said. "Then we see that the second wave which was triggered by the May holiday has been going on."

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Jeong noted that South Korea's prediction that a second wave of COVID-19 would emerge in the fall or the winter "turned out to be wrong," adding, "as long as people have close contact with others, we believe that infections will continue."

Daily new cases of COVID-19 in South Korea fell to less than 10 in April. But "just as the country announced it would be easing social distancing guidelines in early May, new cases spiked, driven in part by infections among young people who visited nightclubs and bars in Seoul over the holiday weekend," Reuters writes, noting that South Korea just reported 17 new cases after confirming 48 the day before. The country has reported more than 12,000 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

At the end of May, more than 200 schools in South Korea closed after new cases spiked, and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon now says that strict social distancing measures may have to be put into effect again, BBC News reports. The Seoul mayor is also warning, per The Washington Post, that the R-number indicating how many people someone with COVID-19 spreads the virus to has risen and that if it "stays at the figure seen 10 days ago, daily new infections are expected to reach around 800 a month later."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.