S.Korean restaurants to ban gatherings of 5 or more people

Seoul, Dec 22 (IANS) South Korea on Tuesday announced a plan to launch a nationwide ban on gatherings of five or more people in restaurants amid a coronavirus resurgence ahead of the holiday season.

Reservation for and entrance to restaurants by four or fewer people will only be permitted across the country from Thursday through January 3, the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters said in a statement.

The municipal governments of capital Seoul, its surrounding Gyeonggi province and the western port city of Incheon have already prohibited all gatherings of five or more people both indoors and outdoors, reports Xinhua news agency.

This new ban is tougher than the highest Level 3 social-distancing rules, in which the gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited.

The central government has strongly recommended any year-end meeting or party of five or more people be cancelled nationwide, with the operation of party venues banned across the country.

The operation of movie theatres and concert halls will be prohibited after 9 p.m.

Winter sports facilities, such as ski resorts, ice rinks and snow sledding sites, will be banned from operating for the next 10 days.

Tourist attractions and national parks will be closed across the country, and fewer than half of rooms at hotels, guesthouses and other accommodations will be available for reservation during the year-end holidays.

Department stores and discount outlets will be required to make temperature checks on visitors, and will be banned from providing samples of food and beverage.

The government upgraded its five-tier social-distancing guidelines to the second-highest Level 2.5 for three weeks through December 28 in the Seoul capital area amid the resurgence.

On Tuesday, South Korea reported 869 new coronavirus cases, raising the overall infection tally to 51,460.

The daily caseload stayed below 1,000 for two straight days, but it hovered above 100 for 45 days since November 8.