Curfew pushed back to 11 as virus cases hit another new high
Restaurants, bars and cafes will be able to stay open until 11 p.m. starting Saturday, as Korea announced it will ease some social distancing measures the same day Covid-19 cases exceeded 260,000 for the first time.
The six-person cap on private gatherings will be kept. The revised measures are effective until March 20.
In a Covid-19 response meeting Friday, Interior and Safety Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said it was necessary to relax the current social distancing measures to help owners of small businesses, emphasizing that the now dominant Omicron variant doesn’t have a high fatality rate.
“If we lift the social distancing measures all at once, the high transmissibility of Omicron may impose too much of a burden onto the medical system,” said the ministry.
PC bang (internet cafes), hagwon (cram schools), public baths, noraebang (singing rooms), indoor sports facilities and clubs can also stay open until 11 p.m. Theaters can start movies from 11 p.m. at the latest as long as they finish before 1 a.m. the following day.
Restrictions on large events and protests will stay the same with the 300-person cap.
On Friday, Korea reported 266,853 new infections, a record and almost double that of Monday's 138,993. Meanwhile, the country had 797 severely ill patients as of Friday, up from 727 cases on Monday.
The government expects to see up to 350,000 daily new infections in mid-March, and said it is difficult to speculate when the peak will hit.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]