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Seoul in midst of second wave of coronavirus infections

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Health authorities say May holiday triggered new infections in S.Korean capital

SEOUL: Health authorities in South Korea said for the first time yesterday it is in the midst of a "second wave" of coronavirus infections around Seoul, driven by small but persistent outbreaks stemming from a holiday in May.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) had previously said the first wave never really ended.

But yesterday, KCDC director Jeong Eun Kyeong said it had become clear that a holiday weekend early last month marked the beginning of a new wave of infections focused in the densely populated greater Seoul area, which had previously seen few cases.

"In the metropolitan area, we believe that the first wave was from March to April as well as February to March," Dr Jeong said at a regular briefing.

"Then we see that the second wave which was triggered by the May holiday has been going on."

At the end of February, South Korea reported a peak of more than 900 cases in a day, in the first large outbreak outside of China.

An intensive tracking and testing campaign reduced the numbers to single digits by late April.

But just as the country announced it would be easing social distancing guidelines early last month, new cases spiked, driven in part by infections among young people who visited nightclubs and bars in Seoul over the holiday weekend.

"We originally predicted that the second wave would emerge in fall or winter," Dr Jeong said.

"Our forecast turned out to be wrong. As long as people have close contact with others, we believe that infections will continue."

As of midnight Sunday, South Korea reported 17 new cases.

It has a total of 12,438 cases, with 280 deaths.

Australia's Victoria state has also seen a jump in infections and is fearing a second wave.

Australian officials told residents in the cluster hot spots to avoid travel outside their suburbs in Melbourne, the country's second-largest city.

Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, has recorded double digit rises in new Covid-19 infections, accounting for nearly 90 per cent of the 126 cases detected nationally over the past week.

"At the moment the recommendation is simply an advisory, a strong advisory, where what we don't want is people to come from those areas to other parts of Victoria, or interstate," Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

The Victorian government has said it would reimpose restrictions after a surge in new cases it said has been caused by family get-togethers. Officials have also criticised people who have gone shopping while awaiting Covid-19 test results.

New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, told residents to avoid travelling to hot spots in Victoria as the winter school holidays approach.

"We're asking people to consider their trips to Melbourne as community transmission at the moment is higher than what they would like," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

Despite the spike in Victoria, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged states to continue removing social distancing restrictions by the end of July.

Australia had reported nearly 7,500 coronavirus cases and 102 deaths as of Sunday. - REUTERS