South Korean president Moon Jae-in has put the country on the highest possible alert level in its fight against the virus.
This move gives the government the power to lock down cities and take other sweeping measures to contain the outbreak.
Alert levels for the epidemic in South Korea are split into four parts.
The lowest level 'attention' is when an epidemic is detected outside Korea.
Second is the 'caution' level, declared when the virus reaches Korean shores.
The level was raised to 'caution' back in January when Korea detected the first COVID-19 case in the country.
With three more cases confirmed, the country then raised the level one notch to 'emergency'.
Now with the virus being transmitted within the community with mass infections, the government has declared a 'critical' alert level.
It is the first time in eleven years that this level has been reached.
The step was last taken in 2009 to guard against a novel influenza outbreak that killed more than 260 people in South Korea.
With the highest level reached, containing outbreak is done through pan-governmental cooperation.
"When the level is adjusted to 'critical', the highest level, ministers of each department work with the central government to contain the virus. The head of the disaster center changes from the health minister to the prime minister."
Under the highest alert level, authorities can order the temporary closure of schools and reduce the operation of public transport and have more control over flights to and from South Korea.
Late on Sunday, the new school year for kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools in South Korea was postponed by one week.
The government also has the power to stop military personnel from going on vacation leave and can forcibly prevent public activities.
It can also send extra resources to Daegu city and Cheongdo county, which were designated “special care zones".
Choi Jeong-yoon, Arirang News.