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S. Korea to raise social distancing level in greater Seoul area to 3rd highest

All News 17:21 November 22, 2020

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Sunday decided to enforce tougher distancing regulations for the greater Seoul area and the southwestern region as health authorities try to stem a resurgence of the novel coronavirus.

The government announced that the Level 2 distancing, the third-highest in the country's five-tier COVID-19 alert system, will be applied to the nation's capital area, while North and South Jeolla Provinces will be under the Level 1.5 distancing for two weeks starting Tuesday.

Health authorities started to enforce the Level 1.5 distancing from Thursday for the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's population, but as virus infections in the region showed no signs of a letup, they decided to adopt tougher antivirus curbs.

"The move is to curb the rising trend of virus cases before the national college entrance exam on Dec. 3 and to prevent massive infections in the winter season in advance," the authorities said.

South Korea's daily caseload has stayed in the triple digits since Nov. 8, with the figure exceeding 300 for the fifth consecutive day on Sunday with 330 cases.

Chairs are stacked up at a cafe in Hadong County, South Gyeongsang Province, on Nov. 22, 2020, as part of the county's Level 2 social distancing scheme. (Yonhap)

Between Nov. 15 and 21, the daily average of COVID-19 cases in the greater Seoul area reached 175.1, nearing its Level 2 criteria of 200 cases. The figure is also more than double from the daily average of 83 cases recorded Nov. 8-14.

"Fast spread of the virus is in progress, and because the virus reproduction rate is already over 1, it is likely that the number of virus patients will increase in the greater Seoul area," the authorities said.

Under the Level 2 scheme, gatherings involving 100 or more people are banned, while some virus-prone facilities, including nightclubs, have to suspend their business.

Restaurants are allowed to serve food until 9 p.m., with only takeout and delivery services available afterward. For cafes and coffee shops, indoor dining is not allowed, and they can only offer takeout and delivery services.

Indoor sports facilities, such as gyms and billiard clubs, are required to halt their operations after 9 p.m. Public facilities will need to meet an admissions cap of 30 percent.

Sports events are allowed to have only 10 percent of their maximum capacity.

The city of Suncheon in South Jeolla Province and the county of Hadong in South Gyeongsang Province have already been enforcing Level 2 social distancing as a precautionary move.

The authorities also decided to adopt Level 1.5 distancing measures for the country's southwestern Jeolla provinces.

Gwangju, the biggest city in the region, has already been under Level 1.5, the fourth-highest in the country's social distancing system, since Thursday, but health authorities pointed out that COVID-19 appears to be spreading fast across North and South Jeolla provinces.

"For the Jeolla region, the daily average of virus cases in the recent one-week period stood at 27.4, which is close to its Level 1.5 criteria of 30 cases," the authorities said.

People are still allowed to carry on with most of their daily routines under Level 1.5, but business operators and people are required to follow toughened public health regulations.


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