• News Update 9/15/2021

South Korea has recorded more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19, with infections in the capital region surging to a record high ahead of the major fall harvest holiday.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency confirmed 2,057 local and 30 imported infections in the last 24 hours, raising the cumulative total to 277,989.

The KDCA also reported 13 additional virus-related fatalities, pushing up the death toll to 2,380.

Infections in the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's population of over 51 million, have been weighing down on containment efforts recently, accounting for 80 percent of domestic cases.

Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province combined logged a record 1,656 local infections, with Seoul reporting a high of 804 new coronavirus patients.

Health authorities are especially worried about a virus flare-up after the Chuseok holiday, when tens of millions of people are expected to travel across the country.

Current social distancing measures -- Level 4 in the greater Seoul area and Level 3 in most other regions -- have been extended through October 3.

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Authorities say rest stops nationwide will prohibit eating and drinking inside their facilities during the Chuseok holiday to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The ban will be enforced from Friday through Wednesday of next week, September 22, according to the government, with only takeout services allowed.

A similar measure was implemented last Chuseok as part of efforts to curb transmissions.

Drivers hitting the roads between Monday and Wednesday will also have to pay expressway toll fees.

Unlike previous years, toll fees will not be waived for the holiday in order to discourage traveling and reduce the movement of people amid the pandemic.

Officials said more temporary coronavirus testing centers will be set up at major rest stops, including in Icheon and Hwaseong, to promote public health measures and vigilance against the virus.

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The foreign ministers of South Korea and China have reaffirmed their willingness to further develop their bilateral relationship.

According to the foreign ministry, Minister Chung Eui-yong met with his counterpart from Beijing, Wang Yi, in Seoul this morning.

Wang called South Korea a close neighbor and partner that China could never leave behind, and he said Beijing will seek to upgrade ties between the two.

Chung, meanwhile, said they have worked together to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

He said he hopes China will continue to support the Korean Peninsula peace process.

It was the first meeting between the top diplomats since April, when Chung visited the Chinese city of Xiamen.

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Final preparations are underway for four amateur astronauts to travel to space from the U.S. State of Florida.

The team plans to orbit the Earth for two days in a SpaceX capsule.

The BBC's Jonathan Amos reports.

[Reporter]
In the 60 years since cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin first went into space, fewer than 600 people have followed in his footsteps.

And most of them have been military trained men and women flying on government sponsored missions.

Inspiration4 is different.

It will be a fully commercially purchased and operated orbital flight.

Six months ago, Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski were going about their everyday business.

Since then, they've had a crash course on how to be an astronaut.








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