November 23, 2020 13:26
Social distancing will be boosted again in the capital region for two weeks from Tuesday, health authorities announced Sunday.
The decision comes as the average daily number of coronavirus infections reached 188.9 in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province over the past week.
Under the new rules, restaurants must close at 9 p.m. except for takeout and deliveries and coffee shops can accept no in-store customers all day long. Nightclubs and karaoke bars will be shut, while gyms and other indoor sports facilities close at 9 p.m. The rules are nearly as stringent as the last lockdown in September.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Monday announced its own lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Until the end of the year, it will ban rallies of more than 10 people and reduce the operation of public transportation by 20 percent after 10 p.m.
"Seoul is highly densely populated with many commuting from other cities surrounding it. So it faces a higher risk of the virus spreading and needs to take preemptive measures," a city spokesman said.
The government is also considering halting distribution of discount coupons, which it resumed on Oct. 22 to boost consumption in the hospitality sector, which was hit hardest by the government response.
On Monday morning, 271 new cases were reported. Numbers were below 300 for the first time in six days, probably because it was weekend when fewer people are normally tested.
The tightening of the rules comes ahead of the nationwide university entrance exam scheduled for Dec. 3. A total of 493,433 students will sit the exam this year.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo on Sunday urged people to cooperate with the latest measure to ensure that the university entrance exam can go ahead in a safe environment.
"The latest surge of COVID-19 is more dangerous than the first wave in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province in February and March and the second wave in the capital region in August" because it is spreading in small everyday gatherings, Park claimed.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said that Korea could face another mass infection unless it contains the current surge.
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