South Korea Warns It’s on Brink of Nationwide Pandemic

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus pray while maintaining social distancing during a service at the Chogyesa temple in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 23, 2020.

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“We’re on the brink of a nationwide pandemic,” the director general of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday. 

Jung Eun-Kyeong said “new cases are increasing in all 17 regions” across South Korea. 

The 397 new COVID-19 cases reported late Saturday represented the highest daily jump in cases since March.  

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said Saturday that new nationwide restrictions, which begin Sunday, followed nine days of triple-digit increases in coronavirus cases.

A man reads posted directions to receive the COVID-19 testing at a makeshift clinic in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 20, 2020.

South Korea’s nationwide ban on large gatherings closes churches, nightclubs, beaches and stops fans from attending professional sports events. 

Jung said 841 new cases could be traced back to an anti-government rally held this month by a right-wing preacher who heads the Sarang Jell Presbyterian Church.  

Another group of cases in South Korea has been traced to a Starbucks, officials say. 

FILE – A pick-up truck passes a sign for free COVID-19 testing, in San Antonio, Texas, Aug. 14, 2020.

Johns Hopkins University reported 23.2 million COVID-19 cases worldwide early Sunday, with more than 800,000 deaths. The U.S., as it had for months, leads the world in the number of COVID-19 infections with 5.6 million, followed by Brazil with 3.5 million and India with more than 3 million.  

Health officials in the U.S. believe the number of infections in America may be 10 times greater than reported because of a lack of testing and reporting. 

COVID-19 cases are starting to emerge from the massive 10-day motorcycle rally held earlier this month in Sturgis, in the U.S. state of South Dakota, authorities say.

Thousands of bikers rode through the streets for the opening day of the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle rally, Aug. 7, 2020, in Sturgis, S.D.

Health officials in Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota say they have identified infections connected with the rally.  Authorities warn, however, that the full extent of infections from the rally will not be known for some time.  

Children age 12 and older should wear a face mask in the same situations an adult should, while 6-year-olds to 11-year-olds should wear them as risks require, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said, to stem the spread of the coronavirus. 

Older children could play more of a role in virus transmission than younger children, the two organizations said, adding that more information is needed to help understand how children of all ages may help spread the virus, which causes COVID-19. 

The situations in which older children should wear a face mask include when a distance of 1 meter from others cannot be guaranteed and when there is widespread transmission in the community, the WHO and UNICEF said in a document dated August 21. 

For younger children, parents should consider their children’s access to a mask and ability to use it, the intensity of transmission in the area, and adequate adult supervision, the two organizations said. 

Children younger than 5 should not be required to wear masks, the WHO and UNICEF said. 

U.S. President Donald Trump, without evidence, Saturdaty accused employees of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of working to slow testing of COVID-19 vaccines until after the November presidential election.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House, Aug. 19, 2020, in Washington.

In a tweet, Trump said the slowdown is the work of the so-called “deep state,” a conspiracy theory suggesting federal workers constitute a hidden government entrenched within the legitimate government. 

Trump’s comments came after Reuters first reported on Thursday that a senior FDA official said he would step down if the Trump administration approved a vaccine before it was declared safe and effective. 

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Saturday on Capitol Hill that Trump made a “dangerous statement” about FDA employees and added Trump is “beyond the pale.” 

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