|Myeong-dong, a shopping district in downtown Seoul, is almost completely devoid of shoppers, Monday, as the central government and Seoul Metropolitan Government have implemented stricter social distancing measures to stem the spread of coronavirus. Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
Rallies with 10 or more people will be banned in Seoul until the end of the year, as part of strengthened social distancing measures applied by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, it said, Monday.
These measures are in line with the central government's decision to raise the social distancing level in the metropolitan area to Level 2 starting from Tuesday, following a recent surge in the daily number of new COVID-19 cases centered around Seoul and the surrounding area over the last week.
Seoul City said it was launching a social distancing campaign with stricter guidelines to be maintained until the end of the year ― the second time it has implemented such guidelines since the end of August when the number of daily new virus cases increased to over 100 after a massive anti-government rally in Gwanghwamun.
Under the measures, the operation of buses and subways will be reduced by 20 percent after 10 p.m. to limit year-end gatherings. If the situation gets worse, subway operation hours may be shortened, ending at 11 p.m.
Demonstrations with 10 or more people will be banned.
"We recognized the recent increasing trend as the biggest crisis in our fight against the virus. In a sense, we decided to take stronger measures to prevent the further spread of the virus, especially in the metropolitan area," acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup said in a virtual briefing.
Seo emphasized, "We will substantially lower the risk of infection by analyzing the vulnerable infection factors in 10 key facilities, including nursing homes and restaurants, to take tailored infection control measures."
Beside the city government's own measures, the central government announced the launch of Level 2 social distancing rules for the capital area starting Tuesday. It came as the country reported more than 300 daily new virus cases last week on three consecutive days, and health authorities are remaining vigilant to ensure the recent flare-up is contained ahead of the state-run college entrance exam, scheduled for Dec. 3.
Under Level 2, nightclubs will not open and restaurants are allowed to serve food until 9 p.m., with only takeout and delivery services available afterward. Indoor dining is not allowed in cafes throughout the day, with only takeout and delivery services available.
Gatherings that support small and mid-sized businesses are restricted to a maximum of 100 people, mainly targeted at weddings and funerals. Indoor sports facilities cannot operate after 9 p.m., and public facilities will need to limit the number of visitors to 30 percent capacity, and sports events such as pro-baseball games to a 10 percent capacity.
The attendance cap at schools in the greater Seoul area will be one-third of students in kindergartens, primary schools and middle schools, and two-thirds of students in high schools.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), there were 271 coronavirus infections for Sunday, including 255 local cases, raising the total caseload to 31,004.
Among the locally transmitted cases, 109 were reported in Seoul, 74 in Gyeonggi Province and 23 in Incheon. Four additional deaths were reported, raising the total death toll to 509, with a fatality rate of 1.64 percent.