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(2nd LD) Anti-virus curbs in place in greater Seoul to be extended by another week

All News 15:59 September 06, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with ban on street rallies in last 4 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Sept. 6 (Yonhap) -- Eating and drinking at food trucks and street stalls will be prohibited across Seoul after 9 p.m. this week under a city government administrative step to supplement the extended Level 2.5 social distancing restrictions.

Seo Jeong-hyup, acting Seoul mayor, told reporters Sunday that the measure will be effective between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. through Sept. 13. A total of 2,804 eateries will be affected by the decision aimed at preventing the so-called balloon effect.

"Now is the very golden time to accelerate efforts to fight the virus, care about the people's living and recover daily lives," Seo said.

Last Friday, the South Korean government announced plans to prolong tougher anti-virus curbs in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon by another week through next Sunday, as the country
seeks to contain another wave of virus outbreaks in the densely populated region.

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

The extension of the toughened distancing 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 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)

Meanwhile, police and Seoul city authorities have banned street rallies slated for the Oct. 3 National Foundation Day holiday.

Seven local groups have so far submitted plans to hold 27 events on the day to police, mostly in the vicinity of Gwanghwamun and other areas that have been designated as no-demonstration zones, according to Kim Tae-kyun, director general of the city government's administration affairs.

Police and city officials have been informing them that such outdoor activities will be prohibited, he said.

During the Aug. 15 Liberation Day holiday, tens of thousands of people staged an anti-government rally in Gwanghwamun. As of Sunday, 527 people nationwide have tested positive for the coronavirus in cases linked with the large-scale rally.

This file photo shows a notice on the Seoul city government's banning of street rallies. (Yonhap)



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