(LEAD) Gov't to raise gathering size limit to 10, relax biz hour curfew to midnight
(ATTN: ADDS photo, more info from para 4)
By Joo Kyung-don
SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- The government decided Friday to raise the private gathering size limit to 10 people and relax the business hour curfew on restaurants and cafes to midnight, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said.
The new social distancing rules will go into effect Monday for two weeks.
Should the situation remain stable during the period, Kim said the government will "boldly revamp" the social distancing rules, raising the possibility of the complete removal of all such restrictions.
The decision to further relax antivirus curbs came as the country began to see a downward trend in new infections after the number of daily COVID-19 cases soared to as high as 621,197 on March 17 amid the omicron-fueled wave.
"There are still lots of risk factors to consider, such as concerns over a possible increase in serious cases and deaths, the impact of 'stealth omicron,' also known as BA.2, which has become a dominant strain, and spring outing demands," Kim said during a COVID-19 response meeting in Seoul.
"That is why we need a careful decision at this point," he said.
Speculation has been rising that the latest adjustment could be the last social distancing guidelines.
Calls for lifting social distancing measures have been growing as the omicron wave appears to have passed its peak, and small merchants and self-employed people have been complaining about losses suffered from the antivirus curbs.
The transition team of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol also said earlier this week it will seek to scrap the curfew on business hours once the spread of COVID-19 passes its peak.
"We will boldly revamp the remaining social distancing rules and other antivirus measures next time if our medical system can be stably managed while we reduce serious cases and deaths in the next two weeks," Kim said.
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