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(LEAD) S. Korea begins 8-day biz restriction of eateries, coffee chains in greater Seoul over pandemic

All News 20:22 August 30, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES photos; ADDS more info in paras 6, 9-10)

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea began Sunday to restrict operations of restaurants, bakeries and franchise coffee chains in the greater Seoul area in an effort to contain the fast spread of the new coronavirus.

Under the plan that lasts until next Sunday, restaurants and bakeries can operate until 9 p.m., and only takeaway and delivery will be permitted from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

For franchise coffee chains, only takeout or delivery will be permitted regardless of operating hours, as cluster infections traced to coffee shops have been reported.

When customers visit coffee chains for takeaway, they should follow quarantine measures, such as making entry logs, wearing masks and keeping a safe distance.

A coffee shop in central Seoul is largely empty on Aug. 30, 2020, as the country is practicing stricter social distancing to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

The move is part of the government's strengthened virus curbs in Seoul and the surrounding areas, home to half of the country's 51 million population, as the country is struggling to curb spiking virus cases.

On Sunday, the country reported 299 new COVID-19 cases, a drop below the 300 mark for the first time in five days. But the health authorities remain on high alert as the triple-digit daily increase continued.

Instead of raising the level of social distancing to the highest Level Three, the country unveiled stronger and "tailored" virus curbs Friday for vulnerable groups and risk-prone facilities, a move widely viewed as Level 2.5.

The government has been cautious about raising the social distancing guidelines to Level Three from the current Level Two due to the far-reaching impact on the economy.

In line with the stricter social distancing guidelines, coffee chain workers put their shops' chairs upside down to indicate they operate only for takeaway or delivery.

Some customers who frequent such coffee joints to study or read books shifted to bakeries that operate normally until 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, South Korea began to suspend the operation of indoor sports facilities, including fitness centers and billiard halls, in the wake of virus infections at indoor sports centers.

The government also expanded no-assembly orders from large academies to almost all cram schools in the wider Seoul area. Only online lectures will be permitted.

To protect the elderly from the risk of infection, visits to nursing homes and facilities will be banned.

Health authorities will also make one-third of all employees at government agencies and public institutions work from home. They also recommended private companies take similar steps.

In mid-August, the government raised virus curbs to Level Two in the Seoul region for two weeks and expanded it across the nation starting last Sunday.

Health authorities extended the current step for one more week in the wider Seoul region, as the number of new infections has not shown signs of easing.

A Seoul street dotted with private educational institutes is largely empty amid stricter social distancing to curb the new coronavirus outbreak on Aug. 30, 2020. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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