As the South Korean government urged people to refrain from traveling to hometowns during the Chuseok holiday in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, accommodations at famous tourist destinations, such as Jeju Island and Gangwon Province are flooded with reservations. It is estimated that about 200,000 tourists will visit Jeju Island during the five-day holiday starting on Sept. 30. The figure is comparable to that of summer peak season. Accommodations in Gangwon Province are already fully booked for the maple season. The country is seeing a kind of “balloon effect,” where the number of tourists increases instead of those visiting hometowns. A risk of infection increases when many and unspecified people gather at multi-use facilities.
The upcoming Chuseok holiday will be the biggest challenge in fighting COVID-19. The country has seen an increase in new COVID-19 cases after holidays. There was a new infection cluster linked to clubs in Itaewon after the holiday in May and the current second wave of COVID-19 after the Liberation Day holiday in August. Since the country is entering into fall, when respiratory diseases are more prevalent, the Chuseok holiday can serve as a detonator if we let our guard down.
The central and local governments should minimize the impact coming from the holiday by enforcing tightened quarantine in high-risk facilities, such as hotels, resorts, entertainment facilities, and karaoke. There will likely be less number of people traveling to their hometowns this Chuseok but there will be a sharp increase in parcel deliveries. The government should take preventive quarantine measures at warehouses, where small and large infections have occurred, and conduct safety checks for delivery workers. For their part, people should refrain from travel and at the same time wear masks and practice social distancing. When staying indoors for a long time, make sure to ventilate regularly.
South Korea has seen triple-digit numbers of new COVID-19 cases for the 35th straight day, reporting 126 new cases Friday. Although the number of new COVID-19 cases per day has dropped from over 400 thanks to the painful Level 2.5 social distancing scheme (Aug. 30-Sept. 12), it is still a quite serious situation that requires Level 3 social distancing scheme. There were 35 new group infections across the country while it was under Level 2.5 social distancing scheme. The world is nowhere near the end of COVID-19 for the time being. COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be available by late next year as participants of Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial experienced side effects. Until then, we should refrain from going out and having gatherings as well as practicing basic hygiene measures.