Covid-19: South Korea extends Social distancing rule

Covid-19: South Korea extends Social distancing rule

SEOUL: South Korea will extend tougher social distancing rules for three more weeks amid concerns over a looming wave of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant especially ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, officials said on Friday (Jan 14).

The curbs were restored a month ago just six weeks after being eased under a “living with COVID-19” scheme, as record-breaking numbers of new cases and critically ill patients threatened to saturate the country’s medical system.

“The indicators have improved more or less but the number of new cases is no longer decreasing this week,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told an intra-agency meeting, noting that Omicron’s share of domestically transmitted infections has reached 20 per cent in just two weeks.

The extended curbs will last until Feb 6, including a 9 pm curfew for restaurants, cafes and bars, but the limit on private gatherings will be raised to six fully vaccinated people from four.

Health officials have warned that without stricter distancing curbs Omicron would become dominant within two weeks, possibly sending daily tallies up to an unprecedented 20,000 in February and 30,000 in March.

The Lunar New Year break begins on Jan 29, and normally tens of millions of Koreans would travel country-wide for family gatherings during one of the country’s main holidays, raising the risks of contagion.

Nearly 95 per cent of South Korean adults have been fully vaccinated and more than 50 per cent have received a booster shot.

South Korea has also rolled out one of the region’s most stringent vaccine pass mandates, under which unvaccinated people can only dine out alone, or use takeout or delivery services. 

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