Most social distancing rules to remain through Chuseok break
Amid worrying signs that people will not forgo travel during the upcoming Chuseok holidays, the government announced that most of the Level 2 social distancing restrictions will be maintained through the holiday season.
“From tomorrow through Oct. 11, we will maintain most of the Level 2 recommendations, which include limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people at the most, and outdoor gatherings to 100 at the most, and shutting down certain high-risk businesses such as clubs, bars [that involve dancing and moving between tables], door-to-door sales businesses and noraebangs [singing rooms],” said Kim Hak-jin, deputy mayor of safety management at Seoul Metropolitan Government, in an online press briefing on Sunday.
Kim said that while internet cafes will still be allowed to operate and serve food, all sports games will be streamed online, with no audiences in the stadiums. Some popular camping sites by the Han River will remain off limits and all restaurants and cafes will be asked to maintain at least a 1-meter (3.3-foot) distance between each table.
Unlike the previous Level 2 measures, however, public institutes such as museums and libraries will be open, the city government said, but they will be restricted to half their attendance capacity.
The restrictions, which have been extended in various forms several times since a recent surge in new coronavirus cases, had been scheduled to expire Sunday night.
The Health Ministry said Friday that the entire country will be subject to many of the same restrictions as the Level 2 system from Sept. 28 through Oct. 11 to prevent the spread of the virus during the Chuseok holidays.
Chuseok, or Korea’s Thanksgiving holiday, is usually a time for family gatherings. Concerned with the possibility of putting elderly parents at risk, some people are opting to take vacation somewhere else in the country.
“Our parents told us not to come see them this time,” a 28-year-old man surnamed Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo. “My wife and I got married in this Covid season and we didn’t get to have our honeymoon. So we decided to take this time off during Chuseok to travel to Jeju Island, just the two of us.”
Kim is one out of 198,000 people expected to travel to Jeju Island over the five-day holiday, according to estimates by the Jeju provincial government. According to the Jeju Tourism Association, 70 percent of the five-star hotels on the island have been booked, as have 79.8 percent of the golf resorts.
It’s a worrying sign for the city government in Seoul, where a majority of cases had been recently.
“Last week, at least 17.5 percent of cases in Seoul were not traceable, and 30.8 percent of cases in the city were asymptomatic,” said Kim Hak-jin. “Think about what it could mean for the nation when silent spreaders of the virus travel from Seoul to other parts of the country. We ask everyone to please refrain from traveling. Your decision to stay at home will prove crucial in our fight to contain the outbreak during this holiday season.”
Korea saw 95 new cases Saturday, of which 73 were domestic cases and 22 imported, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Of the 73 domestic cases, 33 were based in Seoul.
Of the newly discovered clusters in Seoul, one concerned a group of cleaners who work at Sindorim Station in Guro District, western Seoul. Of the 17 cleaners, eight had tested positive as of Sunday according to Guro District Office, after eating their packed lunches together earlier in the week.
Other emerging clusters in Seoul include a care facility for the elderly in Dobong District, northern Seoul, which as of Sunday at noon had 24 cases total. A sauna in Gwanak District in southern Seoul also had 24 cases total as of Sunday at noon.
It was the second day in a row that new cases were in the double digits in Korea, after triple-digit daily caseloads were reported for four days earlier in the week.
Korea had a total of 23,611 Covid-19 cases as of Saturday. Two people died on Friday, bringing the country's death toll to 401. Another 82 people recovered, bringing total recoveries to 21,248 as of Saturday.
BY ESTHER CHUNG, YI WOO-LIM [email@example.com]