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Seoul city toughens antivirus measures until year-end

Acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup (Yonhap)
Acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup (Yonhap)
The Seoul city government on Monday announced toughened antivirus measures until the end of the year, including reduced public transport by night and a ban on rallies involving 10 or more people.

The measures will take effect Tuesday under a new campaign named "Emergency pause period for 10 million citizens" amid a spike in new COVID-19 cases in Seoul and the greater capital area. At midnight Monday, the same region will raise its social distancing rules to Level 2, the third highest of five levels.

The city government said it will enforce stricter social distancing rules at 10 key facilities, including nursing homes and restaurants, as part of the campaign.

"We decided to take preemptive measures equivalent to Level 3 in consideration of the high risk of infection created by Seoul's unique characteristics, such as its high population density and the large number of people traveling in and out of the city," acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup said in a virtual press briefing.

Seoul reported 112 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the fifth straight day with more than 100 cases.

Starting Tuesday, buses will run at a 20 percent reduced schedule after 10 p.m. To allow enough time for the adjustment, the same reduction will apply to subways starting Friday. If necessary, the city government also plans to stop running the subway at 11 p.m. instead of midnight.

The city government did not give an end date for the adjusted schedule. Meanwhile, the ban on rallies will remain in place until further notice.

Asked about Wednesday's planned strike and rally by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the nation's largest umbrella trade union, Seo called for restraint but stopped short of discussing any actions the city government would take in the event the mass gatherings go ahead.

The 10 key facilities subject to the enhanced social distancing rules are houses of worship, workplaces, nursing facilities, indoor gyms, restaurants and cafes, direct sales businesses, public bathhouses, karaoke bars, internet cafes and private academies.

The acting mayor called on houses of worship to conduct all services online, although Level 2 rules allow up to 20 percent of the seating capacity to attend in person.

Call centers, which have been a hotbed for infections, were urged to reduce their office staff to half.

Nursing facilities and day care centers for seniors will ban patients from going outside or receiving visitors.

Indoor gyms will close at 9 p.m. and be banned from offering shower facilities where mask-wearing is difficult. Gym capacities will be capped to ensure users stay 2 meters apart.

In addition to requiring cafes to offer only takeout and delivery, and restaurants to do the same after 9 p.m. in compliance with Level 2 rules, the city government said it is urging customers to stay 2 meters apart when waiting for their orders and to refrain from talking while eating.

At private academies, eating will be banned, while study rooms and other common areas will cap capacity at 50 percent. (Yonhap)
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