Curfews on cafes, eateries to be lifted in November

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Curfews on cafes, eateries to be lifted in November

A street in Myeong-dong in central Seoul is crowded with people during lunch time, Monday. The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced its draft to plan on the transition to the “Living with COVID-19” scheme, under which curfews on cafes and eateries will be lifted Nov. 1. Yonhap

Gov’t unveils draft of ‘Living with COVID-19’ scheme

By Lee Hyo-jin

Restaurants, cafes, gyms and movie theaters will be allowed to operate without curfew starting Nov. 1 under the government’s “Living with COVID-19” scheme, the government announced Monday.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare unveiled its draft plan on the transition to the new plan during a discussion session on Monday, under which social distancing regulations, which had been in place since Feb. 29, 2020, will be lifted gradually in three phases starting from November.

Starting Nov. 1, the government will ease the rules every six weeks. Under the scenario, the country is expected to return to normalcy by February 2022.

At the first phase of the plan, limits on operation hours of facilities with relatively low risk of virus transmissions ― eateries, cafes, movie theaters, cram schools, gyms and concert halls ― will be lifted, while nightlife facilities will be allowed to operate until midnight.

In addition, events attended by a large number of participants such as concerts, weddings, sports events and demonstrations will be allowed with up to 100 participants regardless of their vaccination history.

But the ministry noted that events holding up to 500 people can be held if unvaccinated participants among them submit negative PCR test results.

In the second stage, which is expected to begin in mid-December, events can be held with more than 500 people as long as unvaccinated participants submit negative test results, while such regulations will be lifted for the third phase beginning late January.

Private gathering bans which currently allow gatherings of up to eight people in regions under social distancing Level 4 and up to 10 individuals in regions under Level 3 will also be eased gradually.

During the first and second phases, up to 10 people, regardless of their vaccination history, will be able to gather, while the gathering ban will be fully lifted in the third phase.

Wearing a face mask indoors will remain mandatory throughout the three phases, but the government noted that it may consider removing the rule in outdoor spaces for the second phase.

Curfews on cafes, eateries to be lifted in November

A notice displayed in Euljiro 1-ga Station on Seoul Metro Line 2 reads that late-night subway operation, which had been reduced due to social distancing measures, has been put back in normal operation, Monday. Yonhap

Beginning next month, the so-called “vaccine pass” will be implemented, under which unvaccinated people would have to submit negative PCR test results to enter a multiuse facility. For the first phase, the rule will be applied at high-risk facilities including nightclubs, singing rooms, gyms, casinos and nursing homes.

The health ministry noted that minors and people who are not eligible for vaccination due to legitimate medical reasons are exempt from the vaccine pass, and that the rule will be removed gradually depending on the virus situation.

Under the “Living with COVID-19” strategy, the weekly average of daily infections will not play a major role on deciding whether or not to move to the next phase, as has been done so far for the decisions on adjustment of social distancing levels.

The decision to proceed into the next phase will be based on other factors: the rate of fully vaccinated individuals, medical capacity for the treatment of critically ill patients, the number of critically ill patients and the fatality rate in the previous week and the reproduction number which indicates the number of people infected by a single patient.

The health authorities stressed that they will lift the regulations in a careful manner, as any premature relaxation of the rules may result in a resurgence of infections, as seen in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said a surge of infections seems inevitable in the first few weeks of the transition period.

“Although we are preparing for the new normal based on the increased vaccination rate, many uncertainties lie ahead,” KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said during the discussion session, expressing concerns that about 10 million people still remain unvaccinated.

“The envisioned new normal may not be exactly the same as the pre-COVID-19 normalcy, but the transition to a new era where the country is more prepared against the threat of the pandemic is inevitable,” she added.

The government will announce the final version of the plan on Oct. 29, after reviewing it with experts from various sectors on Oct. 27.

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