Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum speaks during an interagency meeting on COVID-19 at the government office complex in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
South Korea decided to extend restrictions on the business hours restaurants and cafes under the toughest social distancing restrictions by one hour, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced Friday, as the country struggles to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Restaurants and cafes in regions under Level 4 social distancing rules, the highest in the country's four-tier system, will be required to close at 9 p.m., an hour earlier than the current 10 p.m., starting Monday.
The government, however, decided to allow private gatherings of up to four in restaurants and cafes if the party includes two people who are fully vaccinated and have undergone a 14 day immunity-forming period.
The readjustment was announced as the government decided to extend its tough social distancing restrictions for two more weeks.
The greater Seoul area, encompassing the capital, Gyeonggi Province and the western port city of Incheon, will remain under Level 4 distancing rules, while most of other regions will be subject to Level 3 until Sept. 5.
Workers at facilities with high risk of coronavirus infections will also be subject to regular preemptive tests, Kim added.
"The fierce flame of the fourth wave of COVID-19 still remains in place," Kim said, adding that authorities plan to strengthen administrative penalties for violations of virus curbs.
The prime minister also stated that the central government will consolidate the management and uses of hospital beds across the nation to better treat patients and swiftly secure more beds by working together with local governments.
Kim reiterated that the next two weeks will be critical in the country's battle against the pandemic and asked for the people's cooperation, especially as schools reopen for the fall semester this month. (Yonhap)