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Anti-virus curbs in place in greater Seoul to be extended by another week

All News 10:16 September 06, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's tougher anti-virus curbs in place in the greater Seoul area will be extended by another week, with additional measures starting Monday, as the country seeks to contain another wave of the virus outbreak in the densely populated region.

The country's eight-day restrictions on restaurants, bakeries and franchise coffee chains in the wider capital region were originally set to end at midnight.

But the government decided Friday to extend the virus curbs until next Sunday as cluster infections and untraceable cases continued to pop up in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country's 51 million people.

A citizen orders coffee for takeaway at a franchise coffee chain in Seoul on Aug. 31, 2020, as South Korea imposed stricter virus curbs in the greater Seoul area over the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

The toughened distancing for the capital area came as the number of the country's daily new virus cases jumped to a near six-month high of 441 on Aug. 27.

The number of its new virus infections has declined to under 200 for four straight days, but daily COVID-19 cases have been in the triple digits since Aug. 14, mostly tied to churches and an anti-government rally in Seoul in mid-August.

Under the so-called Level 2.5 distancing guidelines, restaurants and smaller eateries 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, bakeries and ice cream parlors, only takeout and delivery will be permitted regardless of operating hours.

The country initially only restricted franchise coffee shops following cluster infections traced to such coffee chains. But it added franchise bakeries and other dessert shops to the list of those subject to the stricter operation restrictions on Friday as people crowded such venues instead of franchise coffee chains.

The country also suspended the operation of indoor sports facilities, including fitness centers and billiard halls, as well as cram schools with more than 10 people.

"There is a need to extend the social distancing guidelines until the number of new patients markedly declines," Health Minister Park Neunghoo said in a briefing on Friday.

The country also extended the current Level 2 measures imposed across the nation under a three-tier social distancing scheme for another two weeks until Sept. 20.

The government raised the anti-virus curbs to Level 2 in the greater Seoul area on Aug. 16 and expanded them across the nation a week later.

Under the Level 2 rules, indoor meetings of 50 or more people and open-air gatherings of 100 or more people are banned. So-called risk-prone facilities, including karaoke rooms, clubs, PC cafes and buffets, have been ordered to shut down.

The government has been cautious about raising anti-virus steps to Level 3 as doing so has far-reaching social and economic impacts.

This photo, taken on Sept. 1, 2020, shows a restaurant in central Seoul with almost no customers during lunchtime. (Yonhap)


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