SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Korea Bizwire) — Restaurants, cafes and sporting facilities located outside the greater Seoul area will be allowed to stay open until 10 p.m. starting Monday, as the government decided to ease restrictions on their operating hours.
Under the current social distancing scheme, businesses are required to close at 9 p.m., but the government decided Saturday to ease the rule for those in the provincial regions amid growing complaints over the prolonged virus curbs.
The greater Seoul area is currently under Level 2.5 distancing, the second highest in the five-tier system, and Level 2 is imposed in other areas.
Around 580,000 businesses are expected to benefit from the relaxation, according to the government.
But the 9 p.m. closing measure will remain in effect for businesses in Seoul and the surrounding area, as the region continues to have reported high numbers of COVID-19 cases, it added.
“More than 70 percent of the patients are from the Seoul metropolitan area, and the infection risks remain high,” Prime Minister Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said.
Other details of the social distancing guidelines, including the ban on the gathering of five or more people, will remain in place until next Sunday.
Apart from the relaxation decision, the government strengthened the punishment for the violation of antivirus steps by such business owners. Those caught flouting the restrictions will be suspended for two weeks immediately in addition to other penalties.
On Sunday, the country added 372 more COVID-19 cases, including 326 local infections, raising the cumulative caseload to 80,896, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.