September 03, 2021 09:42
The government on Friday announced slightly relaxed lockdown rules for Chuseok to ensure that families can at least get some small enjoyment out of the biggest holiday of the year.
In a big blow for business, the current lockdown is being extended until Oct. 3 after the Chuseok holiday, but restaurants and coffee shops in the Seoul metropolitan area can open until 10 p.m. instead of the current 9 p.m. from next week.
Groups of up to six people will be allowed to gather even after 6 p.m., when only two can currently meet, but they must include at least two vaccinated people during the day and four in the evening.
In provincial regions, up to eight people can gather if four are vaccinated. During the Chuseok holiday week only, gatherings of up to eight family members will be permitted to celebrate.
The decision comes amid an outcry from small businesses that restrictions are arbitrarily being imposed on different categories and they are being deprived of yet another peak season by the government's slow vaccination rollout.
Looking at incidence alone, the current lockdown has made no difference and daily new coronavirus infections still hover around 2,000. As of Friday morning, the daily number stood at 1,709, bringing the accumulative total to 257,110.
But only 29.46 million people or 57.4 percent of the population have received one vaccine shot and a mere 16.28 million or 31.7 percent are fully vaccinated. The government claims that the first-shot vaccination rate will reach 70 percent before Chuseok as hundreds of thousands are jabbed every day.
Meanwhile, a shipment of 1.02 million doses of Moderna's vaccine arrived Thursday, months later than promised. Altogether 6 million doses are expected by this weekend, a government spokesman said.
Health authorities plan to keep the interval between two doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines at six weeks until the end of this month.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, 579 deaths, 781 serious adverse effects, and 623 cases of anaphylactic shock after vaccination had been reported as of Thursday, but only two deaths and 222 anaphylactic shocks were directly linked to the jabs. They denied the possibility of vaccines causing leukemia, a recent scare.
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