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Greater Seoul, Gwangju adopt tougher distancing rules amid virus flare-up concerns

All News 10:28 November 18, 2020

SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- Citizens in the greater Seoul area and southern city of Gwangju will be required to follow stricter health regulations in public places and at gatherings under an enhanced social distancing scheme effective from Thursday, as the country is facing another potential flare-up of the new coronavirus.

Social distancing was raised by one notch to Level 1.5 in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, where the average daily cases surpassed 100 in the previous week, the threshold for the second-lowest level of the five-tier scheme.

The new measure will take effect in Incheon, west of Seoul, from Monday for two weeks, given relatively less severe COVID-19 outbreaks in the city.

Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, will also enforce stricter social distancing starting Thursday to rein in the recent hike in patients.

Teddy bears sit on one side of tables with hand sanitizer on a sidewalk in downtown Seoul on Nov. 17, 2020, to pair with people who want to take a break while keeping at a distance from others. (Yonhap)

The tougher distancing rules go into place as health authorities are grappling with another potential wave of the pandemic in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to nearly half of the nation's population.

New coronavirus cases hovered above 300 on Wednesday to reach the highest level since late August due to sporadic infections in community settings across the nation.

In addition to the mandatory wearing of masks required under the lowest level, Level 1.5 requires tightened social distancing rules in restaurants and bars and at rallies and other gatherings.

The maximum capacity at entertainment businesses, such as nightclubs, indoor concert halls, restaurants and cafes, will be reduced to one person per 4 square meters.

Restaurants and cafes need to keep a 1-meter distance between tables, fill every other table or seat or install partitions between tables.

Limited capacity and spacing between seats are required at regular facilities, including internet cafes, private academies, wedding halls, funeral homes, movie theaters, concert halls and public bathhouses.

Gangnam subway station in southern Seoul is crowded with people wearing masks on Nov. 13, 2020. (Yonhap)

Gatherings of more than 500 people are allowed if they are reported to local authorities and held in compliance with social distancing guidelines. But rallies and demonstrations as well as large-scale concerts and festivals, which involve "high-risk" activities such as chanting and singing, are subject to a cap of under 100 people.

Sports events and worship services can admit up to 30 percent of maximum capacity.

Workplaces are advised to increase the number of people working from home, and classes at schools must be limited to two-thirds of capacity, a requirement that was only advisable under Level 1.

Business operators and rally organizers can face up to 3 million won (US$2,700) in fines if they don't abide by the public health guidelines, and those who don't wear masks in public places will be slapped with a maximum fine of 100,000 won.


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