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Bird flu, rain to dampen Seollal spirits
Publication Date : 29-01-2014
This year’s Seollal, or Lunar New Year’s Day, will be marred by nationwide rain, while an outbreak of avian influenza cripples poultry farms and may leave farmers unable to visit relatives.
Seollal is the biggest traditional holiday in Korea, involving tens of millions of people moving about the country to visit their hometowns and relatives.
It is not only a time to pay respects to elders and ancestors, but is also an opportunity to spend time with family and friends to celebrate the New Year.
For the quarantine authorities trying to contain the bird flu outbreak, the Seollal holidays are expected to be the biggest challenge so far due to the large movements of people.
This year, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport estimates that 27.7 million people will travel between Wednesday and Sunday.
The bird flu outbreak that began in North Jeolla Province earlier this month has spread across the western parts of the nation, with the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain detected in Gyeonggi and Chungcheong provinces.
So far, the outbreak has led to more than 1.5 million poultry being culled, with another 531,000 scheduled to be slaughtered in an effort to contain the virus.
Although authorities have expanded quarantine measures, including the areas subjected to disinfection and preventative culling of poultry, the virus appears to be spreading aided by infected wild birds.
The virus was initially detected in Baikal teals that were found dead in a reservoir in North Jeolla Province. As more cases of bird flu in farmed poultry were found, the H5N8 strain of the virus has been found in bean geese, a migratory species that winters in Korea.
While there are no standstill orders in place as South Korea prepares for the four-day weekend, access to some areas may be limited under local governments’ quarantine measures.
Local governments in regions yet to be affected by the outbreak - Gangwon and Gyeongsang provinces - have rolled out emergency measures to prevent the virus from spreading with the massive population movement.
As for the weather, the Korea Meteorological Administration forecasts rain for parts of the holiday with higher-than-average temperatures.
According to the KMA, rain will begin in Jeju and along the country’s southwestern coastline in the early hours of Thursday and spread across the nation.
The rain will return on Saturday, beginning in the Gyeonggi Province and again spreading to affect most of the country. The KMA forecasts that Saturday’s rain will be unseasonably heavy, adding to the traffic conditions.
The temperatures will continue to hover above the average for January, with figures reaching highs of nearly 10 degrees Celsius in some regions.
However, the warm spell will end with the Seollal holidays, with a cold snap expected in the coming week.