• Govt Eases Limits On Social Gatherings In Preparation For 'Living With COVID'
People wearing masks walk through Gwanghwamun Station in Seoul during the Friday morning commute
(Photo: Yonhap)

The government has decided to increase the limit on group gatherings under a new set of eased social distancing rules that will take effect next week.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced the changes Friday as the country prepares to transition to a "living with COVID-19" strategy that will include treating the virus as an infectious respiratory disease like seasonal flu.

"We hope this will be our last adjustment in social distancing so that we can start a gradual return to normalcy in phases in November," Kim explained.

He also stressed the government's aim to relieve the pain of small business owners and merchants hit hard by the pandemic.

Under the revised plan that will take effect Monday, the greater Seoul area will remain under the toughest Level 4 social distancing, while the rest of the country stays at Level 3, for another two weeks until October 31.

However, the cap on social gatherings in the capital after 6 p.m. will be raised to eight people if at least half are fully vaccinated, and apply to all multiuse facilities, cafes and restaurants.

In Level 3 areas, a maximum of 10 people can gather if at least six in the group are fully vaccinated.

Sporting events that have been held behind closed doors can reopen at 30 percent of capacity.

The government also decided to allow study cafes to operate until midnight as the national college entrance exam draws near.

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