Citizens line up to take COVID-19 tests on May 29, 2021, at a screening center set up in a public health center in Songpa Ward, Seoul. (Yonhap)
South Korea will extend its current virus restriction measures for another three weeks and plans to adopt eased measures as part of a set of new distancing rules afterward, health authorities said Friday.
Currently, the greater Seoul area, along with the southeastern city of Daegu and the resort island of Jeju, is under Level 2 distancing in the five-level scheme, while the rest of the country is under Level 1.5.
The ban on gatherings of five or more people nationwide will be also in place, but crowd capacity at outdoor sporting events across the country will increase beginning Monday, before introducing revamped social distancing guidelines.
In areas under Level 2 social distancing, outdoor stadiums can operate at 30 percent of their capacity, up from the current 10 percent. For stadiums outside of the capital area, the allowance is expanded from 30 to 50 percent.
The authorities also plan to allow a maximum of 4,000 attendees for popular music concerts, which had only allowed an audience of fewer than 100 people.
For entertainment facilities in the wider capital area that have been closed since early April, operations will be banned for another three weeks.
Earlier, the authorities also announced that restaurants, cafes, karaoke businesses and other entertainment establishments can operate until midnight in the greater Seoul area, two hours more than the current curfew at 10:00 p.m. starting in July.
The restrictions on business hours of other facilities, including gyms and spas, will be fully lifted, according to the authorities.
The current measures have been in place for over the past four months, and health authorities are set to implement a set of new distancing rules next month in line with an accelerating vaccination rate.
The new rules are aimed at imposing fairer restrictions and giving the public a simpler message on containment, officials said.
The authorities also said eased restrictions, set to be adopted possibly on July 5, will not lead to an increase in new cases.
South Korea has so far reported 146,859 COVID-19 patients since January last year.
On Friday, the country reported 556 more COVID-19 cases.
Daily virus cases have been above 400 since late March with no signs of a letup.
The country's inoculations have been accelerating, with 20.6 percent of the country's population having receiving at least their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines since Feb. 26.
Health authorities are trying to inoculate 14 million people by the end of this month and 36 million by September. The country aims to achieve herd immunity in November but hopes it can be reached earlier than expected as vaccinations pick up pace. (Yonhap)