South Korea to relax COVID-19 social distancing rules further from May 6

South Korea to relax COVID-19 social distancing rules further from May 6

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Seoul
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), wait to ride a roller coaster at an amusement park in Seoul, South Korea April 30, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File photo

SEOUL: South Korea will further relax social distancing rules starting on May 6, allowing a phased reopening of businesses, as the nation has largely managed to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Sunday (May 3). 

The government "will allow businesses to resume at facilities in phases that had remained closed up until now, and also allow gatherings and events to take place assuming they follow disinfection guidelines," he told a televised meeting of government officials.

READ: South Korea reports no new domestic COVID-19 cases, first time since February peak

READ: Ahead of the curve: South Korea's evolving strategy to prevent a COVID-19 resurgence

Scores of events - from K-pop concerts to sports seasons - had been delayed or cancelled, while museums and galleries were closed and religious services suspended.

The easing of measures comes as the country continues to record low numbers of COVID-19 infections. 

South Korea appears to have brought its outbreak under control thanks to an extensive "trace, test and treat" programme.

Its reported death toll is 250 - vastly lower than that of Italy, Britain, Spain and France, which have each recorded at least 24,000 fatalities.

"South Korea will implement the everyday life quarantine scheme starting Wednesday," Chung said during a government meeting.

On Sunday, the country reported 13 new cases, bringing the national tally to 10,793, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). 

Ten of the new cases were imported. 

On Thursday, South Korea had no new domestic coronavirus cases for the first time since its Feb 29 peak. 

However, imported cases still remain a threat, said Yonhap news agency. 

Under the new quarantine scheme starting on Wednesday, schools and workplaces can return to normal routines, but under basic guidelines. The government is also set to announce this week the dates for students to return to school, which is expected to be some time around mid-May, according to Yonhap news agency.

"The new guidelines are more of a compromise amid rising social and economic burdens sparked by the pandemic," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a meeting, as reported by Yonhap. 

"People need to comply with basic guidelines, such as maintaining at least two meters of distance from each other, even after we move on to the everyday life quarantine," Chung added. 

Some professional sports, including baseball and soccer, are due to start their new seasons this week after being postponed over virus fears, although the matches will be played behind closed doors.

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Source: Reuters/ad(ac)