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(LEAD) Jeju Island to keep social distancing rules intact

MON 2020 04 MAY 05:37:PM (GMT: MON 2020 04 MAY 08:37:AM)
KOREA

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details from 9th para)

SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- The provincial government of Jeju Island, South Korea''s most popular vacation destination, said Monday it will extend its social distancing campaign for another two weeks to completely stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, contrary to the central government''s decision to relax its social distancing rules this week.

The government of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province said its own social distancing campaign will be extended through May 19, regardless of the central government''s different decision.

A recent slowdown in the number of new COVID-19 cases has prompted the Korean government to end its 45-day social distancing campaign and shift towards a so-called everyday life quarantine scheme on Wednesday, which allows conditional resumption of gatherings and events and reopening of public facilities.

The departure hall of Jeju International Airport on Jeju Island is crowded with passengers on May 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

The Jeju government said it will remain on alert for a possible rise in coronavirus infections, as more than 200,000 tourists visited the southern resort island during the extended series of holidays that began last Thursday and visitor numbers are expected to further rise in the coming weeks.

Under the policy, the provincial government will maintain its current quarantine measures for the gateway airport, seaports, tourist spots and hotels and delay the reopening of sports facilities and public libraries.

"Many tourists have recently visited Jeju Island from all over the country, and it is expected that there will be growing numbers of visitors. The current social distancing rules will be maintained through May 19, and further follow-up measures will be announced thereafter," a provincial government official said.

South Korea reported eight more cases of the new coronavirus Monday, but all of them came from overseas, marking the third day that the country has reported no locally transmitted virus infections.

Jeju Island has so far reported only 13 coronavirus cases.

Jeju officials said the next two weeks will be critical to their quarantine efforts, as some tourists have shown signs of letting their guard down too early in fight against COVID-19.

Most passengers using the Jeju airport over the extended holiday weekend were wearing face masks, but some tourists and merchants were seen taking off their masks in outdoor tourist spots.

Indeed, the provincial government''s latest monitoring found only 60 percent of tourists wearing masks outdoors.

Moreover, it was difficult for tourists to maintain a distance of at least one meter from one another at famous tourist destinations on the island.

The Jeju government will thus continue to apply international standards in screening out suspected coronavirus patients at the gateway airport and require tourists with temperatures over 37.3 C, stricter than the previous 37.5 C, to fill out a health check questionnaire and undergo a COVID-19 test, if necessary.

A total of 97 persons, including 91 from abroad, were tested for the new coronavirus at the Jeju airport over the past five days, though none of them showed positive test results.

ycm@yna.co.kr
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