In a normal year, millions of people in South Korea would be spending this weekend visiting family in their hometowns in celebration of Chuseok, the rough Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving.
But this year, the government has asked South Koreans to stay home, to avoid exacerbating the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak.
Many South Koreans have grudgingly followed orders, but their acquiescence comes with an emotional price: A normally joyful time of year now feels empty of its sacred rituals, and clouded with feelings of anxiety and disorientation.
“Watching my parents grow older and change often worries me, but seeing them in person puts my mind at ease again,” said Joo Jae-wook, 57, a retired salesman who has traveled with his brothers to their hometown every Chuseok for the past three decades. “But this year I can’t even do that.”
South Korea, a nation of about 50 million, has reported 421 deaths and more than 24,000 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, including almost 500 new cases in the past week. The country’s response has been widely praised as a model, but a recent outbreak that began in Seoul has tested the government’s strategy of using social-distancing restrictions and extensive tracking to keep the virus at bay without shutting down the economy.
Last week, President Moon Jae-in told the nation that South Korea’s people were observing Chuseok at a “difficult time,” and that their sacrifices would be rewarded. “The government will surely repay the people who have endured the difficulties by succeeding in controlling the virus and protecting the economy,” he said.
In other global developments:
The United Kingdom reported a record 12,871 new cases on Saturday evening, double the number daily infections from Friday. The nation is working to contain a second coronavirus wave, and the government said the spike was the result of a “technical issue” that delayed the publication of some cases. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday that the situation would be “bumpy” until Christmas and potentially longer. Britons, he added, should behave “fearlessly, but with common sense.”
France reported some 17,000 new cases of infection on Saturday as an ongoing surge in cases forced the closure of bars and restaurants in the southern port of Marseilles. Rising infection rates mean similar closures could soon apply in the capital, Paris.
Poland’s government said the country surpassed 100,000 total cases on Sunday for the first time.
Russia on Sunday recorded more than 10,000 new infections for the first time since mid-May during the outbreak’s peak there, reporting 10,499 cases. President Vladimir V. Putin, who encouraged his country to return to normal, has built himself a virus-free bubble that far outstrips the protective measures taken by many of his foreign counterparts.
India on Sunday reported 75,829 new infections and 940 deaths, a day after it became the third country after the United States and Brazil to pass 100,000 deaths.