The Latest: South Korea enforces tough measures in prisons

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FILE - In this undated file photo issued by the University of Oxford, a researcher in a laboratory at the Jenner Institute in Oxford, England, works on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Britain on Wednesday, Dec. 30, authorized use of a second COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first country to greenlight an easy-to-handle shot that its developers hope will become the vaccine for the world. The Department of Health said it had accepted a recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to authorize the vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca. (John Cairns/University of Oxford via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea has enforced its toughest physical distancing rules at correctional facilities across the country after a major cluster of coronavirus infections flared at a Seoul prison.

The Justice Ministry says that 792 people — 771 inmates and 21 staff — at Seoul’s Dongbu Detention Center have tested positive for the virus since one of center officials was found infected on Nov. 27. One of the infected inmates has died.

The Dongbu cluster infection comes as South Korea is struggling to contain a recent viral resurgence tied to a variety of other sources such as nursing homes, churches, army bases and family gatherings. Earlier Thursday, South Korea reported 967 new virus cases, taking the country’s total to 60,740 with 900 deaths.

The Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu said Thursday the government has imposed the highest-level distancing rules, called “Tier-3,” on all correctional facilities in South Korea for two weeks to guard against COVID-19. Other parts of South Korea are under lower-levels of distancing rules.

The new curbs will ban visitors and let inmates connect people on the outside by video or phone, while trials and summoning involving inmates will be minimized. In-prison educational classes will be halted, planned paroles of some inmates will be implemented early and prison staff are prohibited from engaging in outside activities.

Lee says investigations are under way to find exactly how the cluster infection happened at the Dongbu facility. But he says overcrowded cells, poor ventilation systems and a high-rise building-like structure of the prison are believed to among the reasons.