Restaurants will close an hour earlier, and vaccinated will get some benefits
Restaurants will have to close earlier and vaccinated people will be allowed to gather in greater numbers, but most of the Level 4 social distancing measures in place in the greater Seoul area, Busan, Daejeon and Jeju have been extended another two weeks through Sept. 5, health authorities announced Friday.
“The government has decided to extend the current social distancing level for two weeks from Monday, Aug. 23, to Sunday, Sept. 5,” said Lee Gi-il, a senior official of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, in a press briefing Friday. “We will maintain the current system in the greater Seoul area, Busan, Daejeon and Jeju where the Level 4 measures have been applied.”
The greater Seoul area, which consists of Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi, has been under the Level 4 distancing measures since the onset of the fourth wave of the pandemic in Korea in mid-July, when the daily cases of infections began to spike from just a few hundred to around 1,500, surpassing 2,000 by early August.
Under these measures, private gatherings of up to four people were allowed until 6 p.m., and only up to two after 6 p.m.
All restaurants, cafes, noraebang (singing rooms), theaters, gyms, PC bang (internet cafes) and hagwon (cram schools) were asked to close by 10 p.m.
The Level 4 measures to be implemented from next Monday through Sept. 5, however, contain some minor changes, such as closing cafes and restaurants earlier.
“In the areas under Level 4 measures, restaurants and cafes will only be allowed to take take-out and delivery orders after 9 p.m.,” Lee said Friday. “Eating inside convenience stores after 9 p.m. is also banned.”
Another change will allow vaccinated people to gather in larger numbers for private gatherings in the evenings.
Up to two fully vaccinated people will additionally be allowed to join a group of two other people, in effect allowing a group of at most four to gather after 6 p.m.
“In the case of including those who have completed inoculation, gatherings of up to four people will be allowed from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.,” Lee said.
People who received their second dose of vaccination two weeks prior count as a fully-vaccinated person.
The rest of the country is placed under Level 3 measures, which limits the number of people in private gatherings to four at most, regardless of the hours.
In the Level 4 areas, all public events and rallies remain banned, except weddings, funerals and academic conferences, which can be attended by 49 people at most.
All sports games banned in-person audiences. Religious facilities with over 100 worshippers are allowed to open 10 percent of the seats available during services, but only up to 99 people at most. Those that house less than 100 worshippers are allowed up to 10 people.
Korea added 2,052 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, of which 51 were imported. Most of these were located in the greater Seoul area — 549 cases in Seoul, 633 cases in Gyeonggi and 117 cases in Incheon, according to Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The country’s vaccination programs are ongoing, with the latest set of reservations for those aged between 18 and 49 having concluded on Thursday. According to KDCA, 61.3 percent of those aged between 18 and 49 have signed up for vaccinations. They will be given Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and vaccinations for this group will start on Aug. 26.
When including the people in the age groups who have already been vaccinated because they are part of the essential work forces such as the police or military, the KDCA estimated that up to 77 percent of the people in that age group have either been vaccinated or made reservations to be vaccinated.
For the country's total population, 48.3 percent had received their first dose of a vaccine as of Thursday, and 21.6 percent have completed their vaccination, according to the KDCA.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]