As the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections raged in Greater Seoul and spread nationwide, the government announced plans Sunday to tighten restrictions on private gatherings across the country to the same level as the capital region.
“From tomorrow, we will apply the same permissions for private gatherings outside the Greater Seoul area,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Sunday.
The government said the new measure is to unify restrictions on private gatherings to minimize travel between regions and prevent confusion among people.
Outside the capital region, the upper limits currently vary from four to eight people depending on COVID-19 figures. From Monday, the maximum number of people permitted to attend indoor gatherings will be unified to four people for two weeks across the board.
The distancing rules will be adjusted autonomously by local governments in consideration of regional situations. Those who have completed vaccination will not be included in the four people ban.
As of Saturday midnight, the number of new confirmed cases nationwide had increased by 1,454, bringing the total to 177,951.
Although it was a one person less than the previous day’s report, it was the highest weekend figure since the start of the pandemic. The daily new case count has now exceeded 1,000 for 12 consecutive days.
Of the newly confirmed cases, 1,402 were locally transmitted and 52 were imported, with 959 of the coronavirus-positive individuals from the Greater Seoul area and 443 from elsewhere.
Also noteworthy is that cases outside the capital accounted for more than 30 percent of the total for the first time since February last year, when Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province were at the center of the outbreak.
The alarming trend outside the capital region is due to an increase in movement away from the city during the summer vacation season.
In Gangwon Province, a popular destination for summer travelers, a total of 91,160 people visited 82 beaches along the East Sea on Saturday. The cumulative number of visitors to East Sea beaches was about 23 million, a 25 percent increase from last year.
In Gangneung, a city in Gangwon Province that has been hit hard by COVID-19, the tally of new cases stood at 26 as of 6 p.m. on Saturday, having posted 21 the previous day.
In the Seoul metropolitan area, where Level 4 social distancing rules are in effect, private gatherings are limited to four people before 6 p.m. and two people after that time.
Meanwhile, officials said Sunday that an additional 61 service members with South Korea’s anti-piracy naval unit in waters off Africa had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases there to 68.
After six members of the 300-strong unit aboard the 4,400-ton Munmu the Great destroyer were confirmed to have been infected earlier last week, the authorities tested the entire crew.
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com