S. Korea to extend tightened social-distancing rules

2021-01-03 12:04:51

  A man reads a book while waiting in a line to undergo coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a coronavirus testing site which is temporarily set up in front of a railway station on Christmas day in Seoul, South Korea, Dec 25, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] SEOUL - South Korea decided on Saturday to extend its tightened social-distancing rules for two more weeks amid a continued COVID-19 resurgence. The Seoul metropolitan area will be placed under the second-highest Level 2.5 social-distancing guidelines for two more weeks until Jan 17, according to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters. The country's five-tier distancing scheme was elevated from the lowest Level 1 to Level 1.5 on Nov 19 in the capital area, which covers Seoul, its surrounding Gyeonggi province and the western port city of Incheon. It was raised to Level 2 for two weeks between Nov 24 and Dec 7, before being lifted to Level 2.5 for four weeks until Jan 3 in the greater Seoul area. In the latest tally, the country reported 824 more cases of COVID-19 for the past 24 hours, raising the total number of infections to 62,593. The daily caseload fell below 900 in five days due to fewer tests on the New Year's holiday. The daily caseload hovered above 100 since Nov 8. The daily average number of confirmed cases for the past week was 956 nationwide, with the reading in the Seoul metropolitan area standing at 652.1. All the other areas, which exclude the capital region, will be placed under the third-highest Level 2.0 social-distancing regulations for two more weeks. Under the Level 2.5 distancing, people are recommended to stay at home and refrain from any gathering or visiting high-risk facilities, while any event of more than 50 people is banned. In addition to five entertainment facilities, such as nightclubs, businesses are suspended in four more risky facilities, including karaoke bars, indoor theaters and door-to-door sales companies. Indoor sports facilities are closed. The maximum number of attendees for offline worship services at religious facilities is restricted to 20 as online services are recommended. Most of general facilities, such as discount outlets, internet cafes, hair salons, movie theaters and study rooms, have to close down at 9:00 pm, facing a limited capacity, a certain distance away from each seat and the ban of eating food. With the Level 2 distancing, the operation of the five entertainment facilities is banned. Indoor dining is not allowed in coffee shops and cafes, with only takeaway and delivery to be permitted. Restaurants are allowed to serve food until 9:00 pm, with delivery and takeout being available afterward. Meanwhile, the government decided to extend the nationwide ban on any private gathering of five or more people for two more weeks until Jan 17. The ban was imposed to discourage people from having a year-end party or a private meeting at the beginning of the new year. It is tougher than the highest Level 3 social-distancing guidelines, in which the gathering of 10 or more people is prohibited.