Small business owners protest COVID-19 restrictions for 3rd day

SEOUL-- Small business owners struggling to survive the government's COVID-19 restrictions delivered a formal protest to the prime minister's office Friday, saying the tightening virus curbs are threatening their livelihoods.

On Monday, the government imposed the strictest Level 4 restrictions on the capital area for two weeks following a spike in COVID-19 cases to record levels. Level 4 bans private gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m. and keeps nightlife establishments closed.

"Level 4 social distancing goes beyond demanding the sacrifice of small business owners to taking us off our respirators," said one person who took part in a press conference by the national emergency committee for small business owners outside the government complex in Seoul.

Another person said, "For a year and a half, we endured the situation no matter how hard it was, but now we have no strength left and nothing to live on, so we had to come out to the streets."

Other became visibly emotional and asked if they would have to go as far as committing suicide before the government listened to them.

The committee made a series of demands, including industry-specific antivirus measures, their participation in a government committee tasked with determining the scope of compensation payments to small businesses, and a minimum wage increase that is applied differently by industry.

They then delivered the demands in writing to the prime minister's office.

On Wednesday night and Thursday night, the committee staged mass drive-through rallies in the city in defiance of warnings from police that they would be treated as illegal under a Level 4 ban on demonstrations involving more than one person.

The rallies drew some 750 cars on Wednesday and around 300 on Thursday, excluding those that were not able to join the procession due to police controls, according to the committee.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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