The nation's daily Covid-19 tally continued to surpass the 1,000 mark for the third consecutive day on Friday, but top quarantine officials remained lukewarm about adopting the toughest antivirus measures due to economic concerns.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA) confirmed 1,062 new Covid-19 patients, including 1,036 local infections. The cumulative caseload went up to 47,515 as of midnight Thursday. Imported cases inched up to 26, increasing by five from the previous day.
The cases on Friday have thrown both health officials and the public into a panic as it marked the first time that the nation has reported more than 1,000 cases for three consecutive days since the country confirmed its first case on Jan. 20.
Due to the recent upward trajectory in daily virus cases, healthcare professionals and the public have demanded the government raise the country's virus response measures to the highest level.
However, the government remained reluctant to do so, but continued to stress that they would raise the social distancing level at the appropriate time.
During a daily task force meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun stressed that the government would prepare carefully and decide when such an action is deemed necessary.
If we upgrade the antivirus measures to Level 3, two million business sites and facilities will be closed or restricted in operation, "Chung said.
The Korean society needed to earn enough consensus before moving on to the highest level, he added.
Chung stressed that the government was concentrating on putting all administrative power to implement the current Level 2.5 scheme strictly.
During the meeting, Chung also addressed concerns about businesses changing their category of business to get out of the government's quarantine monitoring and continue operations.
"This behavior is by no means acceptable," Chung said. "The government has asked the health authorities and local governments to thoroughly crack down on such illegal activities, and take measures for quarantine blind spots."
Eleven more people died of Covid-19, pushing up the death toll to 645. An additional 372 patients fully recovered and returned to their everyday lives, increasing the total to 33,982. The country has tested 3,589,795 people since Jan. 3.