(ATTN: UPDATES with start time of new distancing rules in lead and paras 5-6)
SEOUL, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- All-night Halloween parties and celebrations will not be possible at restaurants, cafes and other multiuse facilities this weekend, as the government decided Friday to enforce relaxed social distancing rules starting Monday morning due to COVID-19 fears.
Ahead of this year's Halloween, which falls on Sunday, health authorities are struggling to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly in Seoul's hip districts of Itaewon, Hongdae and Gangnam Station, which are expected to be crowded with larger-than-usual numbers of young people celebrating the annual Western holiday.
The government's plan to lift the current nighttime curfew on restaurants, cafes and many other multiuse facilities, effective Monday, as part of its "living with COVID-19" scheme has added to the Halloween-related pandemic jitters.
In principle, the eased social distancing guideline takes effect at midnight Sunday, or the beginning of Monday and November, allowing for all-night Halloween parties.
Considering an increased risk of cluster infections, however, the government has decided to delay the start time for the new social distancing rules to 5 a.m. Monday in the greater Seoul area, according to the Central Disaster Management Headquarters.
"Operation hour curfews on multiuse facilities in the capital area will be lifted, beginning Monday morning, at the recommendation of many people," said a ranking official at the government agency.
Currently, cafes and restaurants are allowed to operate until 10 p.m. in the greater Seoul area and until midnight in the other parts of the country. Under the new "living with COVID-19" scheme, all operating hour restrictions on multiuse facilities will be lifted, except for entertainment establishments, from November.
Earlier this week, the Seoul city government said it will conduct special inspections on entertainment establishments in Itaewon, Hongdae and Gangnam Station areas until Tuesday to ensure that they strictly abide by quarantine and social distancing rules.
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