S.Korea to ease social-distancing rules against COVID-19 for 3 weeks

SEOUL, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- South Korea decided Friday to ease social distancing rules against the COVID-19 outbreak for about three weeks as the tightened quarantine measures roiled the businesses of small merchants.

People wearing face masks walk at the Myeongdong shopping area in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 13, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said the eased social-distancing guideline will be kept in place for three weeks until March 13 despite the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, which became a dominant strain here.

The ministry said the toughened social-distancing guideline for the past nine weeks put pressure on the businesses of microbusiness owners amid the relatively low deaths and hospitalizations.

Under the new guideline, the maximum number of people allowed for private gatherings remains at six nationwide, but the business hour curfew will be prolonged by one hour.

Restaurants, cafes, indoor sports facilities and karaoke as well as nighttime entertainment facilities, such as bars and nightclubs, will be permitted to open until 10:00 p.m. local time.

Those who are not fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter restaurants and cafes alone or use take-out and delivery services.

The vaccine pass program, which allows fully-inoculated people to enter crowded facilities, will be maintained in 11 facilities that include nighttime entertainment facilities, restaurants, cafes, indoor sports facilities, internet cafes, casinos and massage parlors.

In the latest tally, the country reported a record daily high of 109,831 COVID-19 cases for the past 24 hours, raising the total number of infections to 1,755,806.

The number of infected people who were in a serious condition stood at 385, down four from the previous day. The total fatality rate was 0.41 percent.