• S. Korea Eases Business Curfew Despite Unprecedented COVID-19 Surge
[Photo: Newsis 

South Korea is set to ease some social distancing rules despite a rapid increase in new COVID-19 infections fueled by the very contagious Omicron variant.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced Friday that business curfews for restaurants, cafes and other major multiuse facilities will be extended until 10 p.m.

But the six-person limit on private social gatherings will remain.

The changes will be in place from Saturday until March 13.

"The government saw the need to maintain social distancing until the Omicron outbreak passes its peak and shifts to a downward trend," Kim said, adding that some adjustments were inevitable, considering the need to support the livelihoods of small business owners.

The move came amid strong backlash from small merchants and self-employed people who have been complaining about massive losses suffered due to antivirus curbs and forced closures.

The prime minister said the government also decided to postpone expanding the vaccine pass system to youths aged 12 to 18 until April in order to give facilities more time to prepare.

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