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South Korea to maintain social distancing rules through Lunar New Year


People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk through a park in Goyang, South Korea, on February 2.
People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk through a park in Goyang, South Korea, on February 2. Ahn Young-joon/AP

South Korea will maintain its current social distancing levels until the end of February 14, health officials announced Saturday.

Some adjustments will be made to business opening hours due to economic hardships, South Korean Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae said.

Last week, the ministry said it would review easing the restrictions for the coming holiday week. The measures in the Seoul Metropolitan Area are at the second highest level and third highest for the rest of the country.

Kang said previous social distancing rules, including the ban of gathering of 5 people or more, will remain in place during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Saturday that restaurants, gyms, karaoke rooms and cafes outside of greater Seoul will be allowed to open for an extra hour until 10 p.m. local time, staring next week.

The decision was made because “small business owners have reached their limit”, and not because the Covid-19 situation is in submission. This measure would affect 580,000 businesses, he said.

South Korea reported 366 local and 27 imported cases Friday. Five patients died Friday, raising the national death toll to 1,464.

There has been 70,505 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country.

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