COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea
|COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea|
|First outbreak||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Index case||Incheon International Airport|
|Arrival date||20 January 2020|
(2 years, 6 months, 3 weeks and 6 days)
The COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case in South Korea was announced on 20 January 2020. The number of confirmed cases increased on 19 February by 20, and on 20 February by 58 or 70, giving a total of 346 confirmed cases on 21 February 2020, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), with the sudden jump mostly attributed to "Patient 31" who participated in a gathering at a Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony church in Daegu.
Amidst fears of further contamination, mass gatherings in the affected cities were cancelled and about 300 soldiers in Daegu were placed in isolation. On 4 February 2020, in order to help prevent spread of the disease, South Korea began denying entry to foreigners traveling from Hubei Province in China.
South Korea introduced what was considered one of the largest and best-organised epidemic control programs in the world, along with Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Various measures have been taken to mass test the population for the virus, and isolate any infected people as well as trace and quarantine those they had contact with, without any further lockdown. The rapid and extensive testing undertaken by South Korea has been judged successful in limiting the spread of the outbreak, without using the drastic measure of locking down entire cities. Despite these successful measures, however, a significant rise in the number of new infections has occurred beginning in August 2020, with clusters being linked to Protestant churches in the metropolitan Seoul area. Another rise began in the third week of November, and Seoul has since entered a third wave of infections. On 24 November, the government raised the social distancing level in Seoul to level 2. On 29 November, the social distancing level in other areas of the country was raised to 1.5. In December, it was raised to level 2.5 in some metropolitan areas and 2 in other areas. In early 2022, there was a major spike in cases related to Omicron, with 170 thousand cases reported on February 22.
South Korea began relaxing social distancing rules on 4 March 2022 and announced a shift toward endemic living on 18 March. It lifted its vaccine mandate and quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travelers on 1 April. The number of new daily reported cases peaked at 621,317 on 16 March 2022 and the number of daily deaths peaked at 432 on 29 March 2022.