November 02, 2020 11:31
Social-distancing rules will be eased slightly as more detailed five-stage measures replace the current three-stage one.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Sunday said the changes aim to cover "weak points" in the existing rules. Under the new rules, bars and clubs will only be shut down and restaurants must stop serving food at 9 p.m. if daily infections exceed 300 for a week.
Weddings and funerals can allow up to 100 guests unless daily infections rise above 300 and will only be capped at 50 if daily infections rise to 400 or 500. Until now, only up to 10 guests were allowed if infections surpassed 100. Schools, private crammers, department stores and beauty shops will be closed if daily infections rise to 800-1,000, up from the previous 100.
Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said the new rules aim to "guarantee daily lives and business activities can continue in a drawn-out coronavirus epidemic." But he said this "does not mean that quarantine measures will relaxed or less attention is needed."
Some lockdown enthusiasts warned the revised measures are dangerous. Uhm Joong-shik at Gachon University Gil Medical Center said, "We must look at other countries that are locking down again due to a resurgence in infections after quarantine was eased to revive their economies."
Over Halloween, the entertainment districts of Seoul, Busan, Daegu and other parts of the country were teeming with revelers. Most big nightclubs closed, but that only drove revelers to smaller bars and clubs.
Itaewon was filled with partygoers in costumes on Saturday night. One 23-year-old woman dressed as a zombie said, "I spent W30,000 on make-up alone this evening (US$1=W1,135). My make-up will be ruined if I wear a face mask."
Another 26-year-old reveler dressed as the DC Comics character Harley Quinn said, "I think the coronavirus epidemic eased quite a bit and I didn't want to miss out on the partying."
Meanwhile, Korea reported 97 new cases as of Monday morning, after seeing more than 100 for about a week, but infections could rise again once the effect of the Halloween celebrations can be measured.
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