South Korea to extend social-distancing rules

A South Korean soldier wearing a protective suit walks past people who wait in a line to undergo a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a coronavirus testing site which is temporarily set up near a subway station in Seoul, South Korea

South Korea on Saturday announced its decision to extend the tightened social-distancing rules for two more weeks until the end of January amid an unabated Covid-19 resurgence.

The Seoul metropolitan area, which covers the capital city, its surrounding Gyeonggi province and Incheon, will be placed under the second-highest Level 2.5 social-distancing guidelines until January 31.

The country’s five-tier distancing scheme was elevated from the lowest Level 1 to Level 1.5 on November 19, 2020, in the capital area, before being raised to Level 2 for two weeks between November 24 and December 7.

It has since been maintained at the Level 2 distancing campaign.

All the other areas, which exclude the capital region, will be placed under the third-highest Level 2 social-distancing regulations for two more weeks.

The nationwide ban on any private gathering of five or more people will also be extended until January 31.

Five or more people will be prohibited from eating food in restaurants.

It is tougher than the highest level 3 social-distancing rules, in which the gathering of 10 or more people is banned.

The maximum number of participants in wedding and funeral ceremonies will be set at 50 in the Seoul capital area and 100 in all the other areas respectively.

Five high-risk entertainment facilities will be forced to stop operation, while restaurants and cafes will be allowed to serve food and beverage until 9 p.m.

Previously, indoor dining was banned in cafes.

Indoor sports facilities, karaoke bars and indoor concert halls will be allowed to open until 9 p.m. with restrictions, after having been forced to close for the past weeks.

Other crowded facilities, such as movie theatres and internet cafes, will be permitted to open until 9 p.m. in the Seoul capital area.

The social-distancing guideline was slightly eased as micro-business owners suffered from losses amid the tightened quarantine measures.

South Korea reported 580 new Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of infections to 71,820.

The daily caseload stayed below 600 for six straight days, after posting 451 on January 11.

It peaked at 1,240 on December 25, 2020.

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