(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's remarks, background)
SEOUL, March 4 (Yonhap) -- The government will push back the anti-COVID-19 business curfew on cafes, restaurants and other multiuse facilities by an hour to 11 p.m. starting Saturday, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said.
Despite soaring infections, the government decided to extend the operating hours for 12 kinds of multiuse facilities in an effort to help small businesses suffering from prolonged anti-virus restrictions, Jeon said during a COVID-19 response meeting.
The new curfew will be effective until March 20, and the current six-person cap on private gatherings will remain in place, he said.
"The government took into consideration the prolonged and worsening hardship of business owners and small merchants despite a series of government compensations and partial easings of social distancing," Jeon said.
The revision is also in line with the government's recent shift to a virus response system focusing on high-risk COVID-19 patients as well as a decision to suspend the enforcement of the vaccine pass system, he said.
The minister said the hospital bed occupancy rate for seriously ill COVID-19 patients surpassed 50 percent this week, but key indicators such as the fatality rate or the rate of patients in critical condition remain manageable within the country's medical response capacity.
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