(ATTN: UPDATES with details from 3rd para)
SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Saturday extended its current social distancing level for two weeks while easing business restrictions on cafes, gyms and other indoor facilities.
Under the new measures taking effect Monday, the capital area will continue to enforce Level 2.5, the second highest in a five-tier system, and the rest of the nation will remain under Level 2.
The ban on private gatherings of five or more people, and the restriction on business operations after 9 p.m., will also be kept intact.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said these measures helped curb infections in recent weeks.
"We debated seriously between the opinion that we should quickly restore everyday life by further tightening antivirus measures and the opinion that we can no longer neglect the suffering of small businesses," he said while announcing the new measures during a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters.
Indoor gyms, cram schools and karaoke establishments will be allowed to reopen on the condition that they strictly adhere to antivirus measures.
Restrictions on cafes and houses of worship will also be eased in response to criticism that they are excessive, Chung said.