SEOUL, July 7 (Korea Bizwire) — Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said Wednesday the city will reduce bus and subway schedules and expand COVID-19 testing to fight the recent resurgence of the virus amid a record high number of cases.
At a press briefing, Oh said bus schedules will be scaled back starting Thursday and subway schedules starting Friday. For both buses and the subway, schedules will be reduced by 20 percent after 10 p.m.
Oh ordered the owners and employees of private cram schools, restaurants, cafes, karaoke establishments and internet cafes to take preemptive COVID-19 tests, while announcing plans to increase the number of temporary testing centers from 26 to 51 across the city.
“We are asking people to refrain from non-essential travel as much as possible,” he said. “The city of Seoul will do everything to stop the spread (of COVID-19).”
Earlier Wednesday, health authorities decided to extend current distancing curbs in the greater Seoul area for one week but warned of further tougher measures unless the current situation is brought under control.
Seoul also extended the curbs on all rallies downtown and rallies with more than 10 people in non-downtown areas. The ban has been in effect since Nov. 24, 2020.
The municipality had planned to ease the ban starting July 1, but decided to push it back indefinitely until the virus outbreaks subside.
If the virus continues to spread at the current rate, they said the capital area will soon meet the criteria for Level 4 distancing guidelines, the highest of the new four-tier system.
Health authorities had planned to place the capital area under Level 2 of the new system last Thursday but held off for a week before postponing it again Wednesday.
Currently the greater Seoul area is under Level 2 of a five-tier system, or the third-highest level.
The capital city reported 583 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the biggest number since the start of the pandemic, as the virus has spread especially among people in their 20s and 30s who have largely been ineligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
The country as a whole reported 1,212 new cases, the second-highest after 1,240 on Dec. 25.
The mayor announced plans to increase hospital beds, including at treatment facilities for asymptomatic patients and mild cases of COVID-19.
By next week, the city will secure an additional 2,000 or more hospital beds at these treatment facilities, he said.
Also as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the city implemented a ban on drinking between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. at all Han River parks and 25 other city-run parks, starting midnight Tuesday.
City workers found 251 cases in violation of the ban on the first day, more than 221 detected on Monday. Violators who refuse to follow orders will face a fine of up to 100,000 won (US$87.85).
Oh said the city government will consider additional measures if the ban on outdoor drinking fails to curb infections.