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(LEAD) S. Korea to extend tougher anti-virus curbs in greater Seoul for another week

All News 15:10 September 04, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with gov't announcement; ADDS more photos)

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Friday decided to extend tougher anti-virus curbs on restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops in the greater Seoul area for another week, as sporadic cluster infections and untraceable cases are still popping up in the densely populated area.

Since Sunday, the country began limiting operations of restaurants, bakeries and franchise coffee chains in the Seoul metropolitan area under the so-called Level 2.5 social distancing guidelines, while implementing the Level 2 measures across the country since mid-August.

People carrying takeout boxes walk out of a restaurant in Seoul at lunch time on Sept. 2, 2020, as tough social distancing rules are being enforced amid the spread of the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

The toughened distancing in daily lives for the capital area, set to end Sunday, came just days after the country's daily new virus infections soared to a near six-month high of 441 on Aug. 27.

Since Aug. 14, the number of new daily cases has been in triple digits, mostly traced to a conservative church in northern Seoul and an anti-government rally in the capital on Aug. 15 Liberation Day, though new infections have been under 300 for a week.

The country reported 198 new COVID-19 infections Friday, raising the total caseload to 20,842. Friday marked the second straight day the daily figure stayed below 200 amid signs of a slowdown in new infections, but authorities said the declining trend was not clear enough to let their guard down.

Presiding over an inter-agency meeting on the country's COVID-19 response earlier in the day, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun urged once again that the public support the government's campaign and have patience over restrictions on their daily lives and activities.

The number of confirmed cases has slightly declined recently, he said, but it has yet to enter the phase of "solid stability."

People walk while holding takeout coffee at lunch time on a street in Seoul on Sept. 1, 2020, as toughened social distancing guidelines are enforced to prevent the virus spread. (Yonhap)

Under the Level 2.5 rules, restaurants and bakeries can operate until 9 p.m., and only takeaway and delivery are permitted from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

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

Indoor sports facilities, such as fitness centers and billiard halls, as well as cram schools are also shut.

In other parts of the country under the Level 2 scheme, South Koreans are allowed to maintain most of their daily routines, but outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people are banned. Sports events are allowed without spectators, and indoor meetings of 50 or more people are prohibited.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during a meeting on the new coronavirus response at the government office complex in Seoul on Sept. 4, 2020. (Yonhap)



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