SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA) – South Korea has eased some of its tough social distancing rules for businesses on Monday. Authorities have, however, kept limits on private gatherings as they prepared to unveil plans for the roll out of COVID vaccine from February 26 onwards.
The decision comes after daily COVID infections rebounded to above 400 ahead of the break, but have dropped since then with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reporting 344 new infections as of midnight Sunday.
KDCA has announced that healthcare workers and older residents will be among the first to be vaccinated.
Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol, however, urged caution as infection clusters continue to plague the densely populated capital of Seoul and neighbouring areas.
“There is always a concern of transmission from movements during the Lunar New Year holiday,” he told a government meeting. “But if we lower our guards amid easier social distancing measures, infections will rise again.”
Nearly 80% of the new cases reported over the holiday were in the Seoul area. However, some restrictions have been eased in the greater Seoul area, effective Monday.
Curfew for restaurants and cafes has been pushed to 10 pm. Cinemas, internet cafes, “cram schools”, theme parks, large supermarkets, and hair salons have been removed from curfews. Private gatherings of more than four people are still banned across the country.
The country had reported a total of 83,869 COVID-19 infections as of Sunday, with 1,527 deaths.