South Korea eases social distancing for two weeks ahead of major holiday

SEOUL (CNA) – South Korea yesterday eased its tough social distancing policy for the next two weeks in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, with new daily novel coronavirus cases hovering stubbornly within triple digits.

The government has lifted a ban on onsite dining after 9pm though it still requires restaurants and cafes to restrict seating and record patrons’ names and contact details. While leisure facilities such as gyms and Internet cafes are also allowed to re-open, under so-called phase two restrictions, indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people and outdoor gatherings to 100, while spectators are banned from sporting events.

Health authorities said the easing would contribute toward a re-opening of the economy, before returning to tougher guidelines for two weeks again from September 28 during the Chuseok holiday.

“After a comprehensive review of the recent situation and expert opinion, the government intends to adjust social distancing to phase two in the Seoul area for two weeks,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a televised meeting of government officials.

A woman rides down an escalator amid the COVID-19 pandemic at a shopping mall in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: CNA