Asia Today: Seoul considers new curbs as virus cases climb

Visitors wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus, walk in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, June 28, 2020. China has ex...
A man wearing groves adjusts his protective face mask as he walks by posters showing a proper way to wear a face mask to help curb the spread of the c...
A woman wearing a protective face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks by a decoration outside a shopping mall in Beijing, Sunday, Ju...
People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk by a decoration outside a shopping mall in Beijing, Sunday, June 28, 2020. C...
A health worker checks the body temperature of a resident, as others await their turn during a free medical checkup in a slum in Mumbai, India, Sunday...
A hairstylist works on a customer's hair in Mumbai, India, Sunday, June 28, 2020. India is the fourth hardest-hit country by the COVID-19 pandemic in ...
A general view of a slum area, some of which are containment zones, in Mumbai, India, Sunday, June 28, 2020. India is the fourth hardest-hit country b...

Visitors wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus, walk in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, June 28, 2020. China has ex...

A man wearing groves adjusts his protective face mask as he walks by posters showing a proper way to wear a face mask to help curb the spread of the c...

A woman wearing a protective face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks by a decoration outside a shopping mall in Beijing, Sunday, Ju...

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk by a decoration outside a shopping mall in Beijing, Sunday, June 28, 2020. C...

A health worker checks the body temperature of a resident, as others await their turn during a free medical checkup in a slum in Mumbai, India, Sunday...

A hairstylist works on a customer's hair in Mumbai, India, Sunday, June 28, 2020. India is the fourth hardest-hit country by the COVID-19 pandemic in ...

A general view of a slum area, some of which are containment zones, in Mumbai, India, Sunday, June 28, 2020. India is the fourth hardest-hit country b...

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has reported 42 new infections of COVID-19 as infections steadily climb in the greater capital area, forcing authorities to consider stronger social restrictions.

The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday brought the national caseload to 12,757, including 282 deaths.

Twenty-four of the new cases were reported from capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May. At least 12 of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as the virus continues to strengthen its hold elsewhere around the world.

South Korea was reporting hundreds of new cases a day in late February and early March following a major surge surrounding the southeast city of Daegu, where the majority of infections were linked to a single church congregation with thousands of members.

But while health authorities had used aggressive testing and contact tracing to contain the outbreak in that region, they are having a much harder time tracking recent transmissions in the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people live. With people increasingly venturing out in public, new clusters are tied to a variety of places.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo during a briefing Sunday afternoon announced that the government is prepared to implement stronger social distancing measures if the epidemic continues to grow. He said the strongest measures -- including banning all gatherings of more than 10 people, shutting schools, halting professional sports, and restricting operations of non-essential businesses -- will be enforced if the daily increase in infections doubles more than two times during a span of a week.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Health authorities are using a saliva test for coronavirus in Australia’s second-largest city. Officials say 49 people tested positive in Melbourne on Sunday and only four cases were detected elsewhere in Australia. Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Monday the less-comfortable nasal test remained the preferred option and may be more accurate, but the saliva test “will be great, particularly for kids.” Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the situation in Melbourne was “a genuine challenge now,” in part because the better situation elsewhere in Australia made it harder to tell people to stay vigilant.

— China reported a further decline in new cases, with just 12. Seven of those were locally spread cases in Beijing, where nearly 8.3 million people have been tested in recent weeks. The number of new cases in the city was down by half from the day before, the National Health Commission reported. Beijing temporarily shut a huge wholesale food market where the virus spread widely earlier this month, reclosed schools and locked down some neighborhoods. Anyone leaving Beijing is required to have a negative virus test result procured within the previous seven days.