Capital area to be under Level 2 with eased measures in new four-tier distancing scheme

SEOUL-- Health authorities on Sunday announced that the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's population, will be under Level 2 with eased virus curbs in the new four-tier social distancing system to be enforced next month.

Seoul, Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital, and Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, will be placed under Level 2, the second-lowest in the four-tier system, from Thursday, according to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters.

Virus cases from the greater Seoul area accounted for nearly 75 percent of the domestic infections reported in the past week.

Regions outside the greater Seoul area will be under Level 1 in the revamped distancing scheme, though detailed guidelines will differ by provinces.

All regions, except South Chungcheong Province, will have a two-week pilot-run of the new distancing scheme before they fully adopt the upgraded guidelines in phases.

The capital area is currently under Level 2 distancing in the existing five-tier system while the rest of the nation is under Level 1.5, with private gatherings of five or more banned nationwide.

Under the new four-tier system, the capital area will see more relaxed measures that allow businesses to stay open longer and permit gatherings of more people as vaccinations pick up pace.

Restaurants and cafes can operate till midnight, while bars and other nightlife facilities will be allowed to resume business in the upgraded Level 2 distancing.

Currently, restaurants and cafes are allowed to run till only 10 p.m., while the operations of bars and other nightlife establishments are suspended.

In the new Level 2 distancing, the ceiling on private gatherings will be lifted up to six people until July 14 before it is eventually expanded to eight people.

Those regions under the new Level 1 distancing will have more freedom in their daily activities.

Multiuse community facilities, including restaurants and gyms, will have no business curfews under the condition that they take antivirus measures, such as keeping 1-meter distance between people.

There will be no limit for private gatherings in the new Level 1 distancing, but major cities and provinces said they will allow private gatherings of up to eight people until July 14 before they scrap the limit.

Jeju Island will ban private gatherings of six or more people for two weeks like the greater Seoul area.

Only South Chungcheong Province will not apply the private gathering ban when the new distancing system is introduced.

Health authorities said they plan to exclude fully vaccinated people from the headcount when applying distancing rules for gatherings.

Under the Level 3 distancing in the revamped system, the ban on private gatherings of five or more people will be applied, while mass gathering events will be allowed to accommodate up to 49 people.

Restaurants, cafes, swimming pools and nightlife establishments will be able to operate until 10 p.m.

In the Level 4 distancing, there will be de facto nighttime curfews, as private gatherings up to two people will only be permitted after 6 p.m.

Most public and community facilities, including cram schools, barbershops and large supermarkets, can operate until 10 p.m. under Level 4, while nightlife business establishments, like clubs and bars, will not be allowed to accept customers.

Sports games will be held without crowds, while religious services are only allowed online.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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