South Korea was so proud of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic that it coined a term for it: K-quarantine, echoing the global musical phenomenon K-pop.
Its two-pronged strategy of fighting the virus while keeping the economy running appeared to work. The country all but halted a large outbreak without closing its borders, locking down towns or drawing an outcry over draconian restrictions on movement. The country was held up as a model for the rest of the world.
But now, South Korea is struggling with a second wave of infections spreading from the populous Seoul metropolitan area, and its strategy seems as precarious as ever. To complicate matters, some of the government’s strongest allies in the fight against Covid-19, young doctors, have gone on strike, unhappy with President Moon Jae-in’s medical reform program.
The government is also trying to sustain a fragile balance between controlling the virus and safeguarding the economy, and between using government power to protect public health and not infringing on civil liberties.
South Korea’s daily caseload of new infections, once fewer than 10, has been in the triple digits since Aug. 14, taking the country of 50 million people to more than 20,000 cases and 329 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Officials reported 195 cases on Thursday, falling below 200 for the first time since Aug. 17.
The virus has spread quickly from churches and a large antigovernment protest rally. Mr. Moon’s government has threatened lawsuits and prosecution against churchgoers and protesters accused of impeding official efforts to control the epidemic. But they’ve pushed back, calling him a dictator who is running the country under “quarantine martial law.”
In other developments from around the world:
Thailand has gone 100 days without a reported case of local transmission, one of the few major nations to reach that threshold since the pandemic began. But its success in halting the spread of the virus has come at a significant financial cost. Thailand’s last reported case of community transmission was confirmed on May 24. Hundreds of cases have been found since then among residents returning from abroad, but all were detected during the required 14-day quarantine periods. As of Thursday, Thailand had reported 3,425 cases and 58 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
India reported 83,883 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, breaking its own global record. It has the world’s third-highest number of cases and deaths after the United States and Brazil.
The Czech Republic reported 650 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its highest single-day increase since the virus first appeared in the country in March.
Turkey will impose restrictions on weddings and other social events amid a surge in new cases. The daily number of cases was around 1,000 last month, but has reached almost 1,600 in the last week.
Reporting was contributed by Patricia Cohen, Ben Casselman, Ethan Hauser, Choe Sang-Hun, Jennifer Jett, Katie Thomas, Neil Vigdor and Carl Zimmer.