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S. Korea to ease social distancing to lowest level, retain stronger measures as needed: PM

Welfare/Medicine 16:36 October 11, 2020

SEOUL, Oct. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has decided to lower the tough virus curbs in place across the country since late August on views that the numbers of cases are slowing, the country's prime minister said Sunday.

The country designated two weeks ending that day as a special period for an intensive antivirus campaign due to concerns that new virus cases may resurge after back-to-back holidays, including a three-day Chuseok fall harvest holiday finish.

The country imposed the Level 2 social distancing measures, the second-highest on a three-tier system, in late August as cases spiked following a holiday and a mass rally that took place in central Seoul.

A mall in the western Seoul ward of Yeongdeungpo is busy with weekend shoppers on Oct. 11, 2020. (Yonhap)

"The average number of local infections fell to less than 60 on a daily basis over the past two weeks and the reproduction rate declined to 'below 1,' which led us to judge that the spread is being contained," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters meeting.

Chung said the government has decided to lower the social distancing measure to Level 1 considering the negative impact stronger measures have had on people's sentiment and the domestic economy.

The prime minister, however, said the government will selectively retain tougher measures, such as those against door-to-door sales.

Some measures will remain in place for the greater Seoul area where a fall in new cases has been relatively slow, Chung said, adding that seating arrangements based on social distancing will stay at cafes and restaurants.

The prime minister thanked the public for following anti-virus measures and urged them to always wear masks and refrain from group meetings and trips.

South Korea's new virus cases showed signs of slowing on the back of enhanced restrictions. But sporadic cluster infections and untraceable cases have continued to strain the country's virus fight.

The country added 58 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, increasing by double digits for the fourth straight day.

With tightened social distancing imposed on the greater Seoul area for weeks, the daily number of new COVID-19 cases has been hovering around 100 since early September.

A lion statue wears a face mask at an amusement park in Gwacheon, just outside of Seoul, on Oct. 11, 2020. (Yonhap)

mlee@yna.co.kr
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