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Seoul to ease distancing at some sports facilities

Business restrictions continue for restaurants, cafes and karaoke places

Police inspect a new gym in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, in January, prior to its opening. (Yonhap)
Police inspect a new gym in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, in January, prior to its opening. (Yonhap)
Seoul City will implement a one-month pilot project and ease social distancing rules at some private sports facilities, officials said Thursday, amid growing vaccination rates in the city.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said it would allow fitness centers and indoor golf practice centers in the Mapo-gu and Gangdong-gu areas to operate until midnight for a month starting Saturday.

The facilities in the two areas will be allowed to extend their hours for two hours beyond the current 10 p.m. on condition that they mandate mask-wearing, carry out preemptive inspections, restrict the number of users after 10 p.m. and ensure adequate ventilation.

“The fitness centers and indoor golf practice centers are selected because they are operated on a membership basis, making it easy to manage users,” Park Yu-mi, a quarantine control officer at the Seoul Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, said in a press briefing.

Mapo-gu and Gangdong-gu were chosen for their excellent quarantine management. Additional facilities will be allowed to follow the looser restrictions after the city receives applications from the districts, the official said.

“We reviewed swimming pools, academies and learning institutions, but they were not included because extending business hours didn’t seem to benefit them much,” Park said.

On the other hand, “Restaurants, cafes and karaoke seem to have huge benefits (from easing restrictions) but they were excluded because of the risk of having to take off the mask and the recent mass infection in the places,” she added.

“We will analyze the pilot project well and review the expansion of restaurants, cafes and karaoke areas later.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been conducting self-testing kit pilot projects at logistics centers, call centers and boarding schools since May 17.

As part of the project, 105,264 tests have been taken and three cases have been confirmed at three call centers so far, the government said. Separately, 79 cases were found through PCR tests by citizens who voluntarily purchased kits.

“We believe that self-testing kits help detect infections in the community in advance and prevent the spread,” Park said.

On Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Seoul increased by 213 compared with the previous day, totaling 45,892 people.

Of all 9.6 million Seoulites, about 1.7 million people had received their first vaccine doses and around 380,000 had received their second shots as of Wednesday. A total of 910,414 doses are currently secured: 529,080 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 110,844 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 270,490 doses of the Janssen vaccine.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)

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