South Korea tightens curbs as virus cases, omicron fears rise
More public places to require vaccine passes for entry, limits back on private gatherings
As omicron fears grow and infections hit record highs, more public places in South Korea will require vaccine passes and limits will be re-imposed on private gatherings, the government announced on Friday.
Starting next week, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and museums will be among the places that need proof of vaccination or a negative test for entry, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said at a meeting of the coronavirus response team, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The list already includes bars, nightclubs and karaoke spots, gyms, casinos, and horse racing, and cycling courses.
As vaccinations among the age group are still low, the requirement for vaccine passes will not apply to teenagers between 12 and 17 until February.
The cap on private gatherings will be cut to six from 10 for the capital Seoul and its surrounding areas and to eight from 12 in other regions.
Kim said the measures will be in force for at least four weeks, but the government will “regularly assess” the situation and “take swift measures ... at any time.”
He also urged businesses to make employees work from home “as much as possible until the end of the year.”
Seoul has been forced to walk back on its “living with COVID-19” plan as daily cases surged past 5,000 over the past two days for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Six cases of the omicron variant have only added to the sense of urgency.
The South Korean government has imposed travel curbs for eight African countries and also made a 10-day quarantine mandatory for all international arrivals, even if they are vaccinated.
Daily infections slightly dropped to 4,944 on Friday, but the number of critically ill patients has shot up to a record high of 736.
The death toll swelled by 34 to reach 3,739.
South Korea has fully vaccinated 41.19 million people, or 80.2% of its population, while 42.61 million, or 83%, have received a first dose, according to Health Ministry data.
*Writing by Islamuddin SajidAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.