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S.Korea to raise private gathering size limit, keep restaurant curfew

 
Seoul, Jan 14 (IANS) The South Korean has government decided to raise the private gathering size limit to six while keeping a 9 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes for the next three weeks, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Friday.

The decision came as the number of daily Covid-19 cases has been around 4,000 in recent days after reaching as high as over 7,000 last month, reports Yonhap news Agency.

However, health authorities are still keeping their guard up due to the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19, with concerns over a possible uptick around the Lunar New Year holiday period beginning later this month.

"The Omicron variant is spreading quickly especially from last week and is on the verge of becoming the dominant variant as it accounted for 20 per cent of domestic cases two days ago," Kim said during a Covid-19 response meeting.

"I request people to restrain from their hometown visits and meetings with relatives and families during the Lunar New Year holiday period."

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), most of the current restrictions other than the four-person cap on private gatherings will be maintained.

Toughened social distancing rules have been in place since mid-December.

The Covid-19 vaccine pass system will also be in place, which is required to enter restaurants, cafes and other major indoor multipurpose facilities.

The new distancing rules to be in place from January 17 through February 6.

The government also decided to run a special quarantine period between January 20 to February 2, and implement extra antivirus steps to prevent the virus from spreading during the holiday.

Face-to-face meetings at nursing facilities will be banned, and non-contact meetings will be allowed only after prior reservations.

Train tickets will only be sold for window seats, and ferries are highly advised to limit passengers to 50 per cent capacity.

The government also vowed to strengthen on-site inspections of major public facilities to better enforce thorough quarantine steps.

As the tightened distancing rules have been extended again, Kim said the government will draw up a supplementary budget to help small merchants and self-employed people.

--IANS
ksk/