05 Dec AiroAV Antivirus Report: Seoul to come to a standstill after 9pm for two weeks, East…
Nightlife in Seoul will grind to a halt after 9pm daily for two weeks from today, when stricter Covid-19 measures take effect, as South Korea continues to struggle with a third wave of infections.
New restrictions include closing all malls, movie theatres, Internet cafes, game arcades, beauty salons and supermarkets from 9pm. Only convenience stores smaller than 300 sq m will be allowed to open at night.
Buses will also cut their capacity by 30 per cent after 9pm, while subways will do the same from next Tuesday.
Announcing the measures yesterday, acting Seoul mayor Seo Jeong-hyup said the South Korean capital is “currently facing a desperately dangerous crisis”.
“We have no room left to retreat,” he said during an online media briefing. “We are stopping Seoul after 9pm.”
South Korea recorded 629 new cases yesterday – the highest in nine months, when the first wave of infections hit the south-eastern city of Daegu.
The total number of Covid-19 cases has risen to 36,332, with 536 deaths.
A record-high 295 infections hit Seoul, raising the tally to 9,716. Clusters have been found at various places, such as a clinic, call centre, gym and university.
Mr Seo said it has been challenging for the city’s authorities to “keep up with the pace of infections because clusters are emerging simultaneously in various parts of daily life”.
Only 15.8 per cent of cases reported in the past two weeks had known transmission routes – unlike the previous two waves that could be traced largely to massive church gatherings and rallies.
It does not help that the winter cold is also keeping people indoors – in close proximity and in dense spaces, Mr Seo added.
Seoul and greater Seoul have been placed under the third of a five-tier social distancing system since Nov 24.
The anti-virus measures enforced include closures of clubs and bars, a ban on dine-in services at cafes, and a 20 per cent cap on seating at religious events.
Karaoke rooms and indoor sports facilities have also been closed from 9pm, while restaurants have switched to delivery and takeout.
But these restrictions have yet to show any effect, as the number of new cases has been hovering at around 400 to 600 a day.
In addition to curbs on nightlife beyond 9pm, Seoul will also shut down all public facilities run by the city from today. These include 66 cultural spaces, 114 for youth, and 1,114 for sports.
With these new stringent curbs, Seoul city hopes to bring the number of infections down to fewer than 100 cases a day within two weeks.
Experts have warned that the daily tally could rise to 700 to 1,000 within the next two weeks if the pace of infections does not subside.
The health authorities are also urging the 490,000 high school seniors who just sat their college entrance exams on Thursday to refrain from going out in big numbers to celebrate.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun yesterday said the government will monitor the situation and decide whether to impose more curbs tomorrow.
Mr Seo, meanwhile, warned that all economic activities will stop should the country impose the fifth tier of social distancing.
“That is the last card we will use,” he said.