South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Thursday ordered a revision of social distancing guidelines to gain greater public support for efforts to stop local transmission of the new coronavirus, Reuters reports.
The country’s five-tier social distancing system has faced public backlash for imposing unfair restrictions and curfews on certain businesses, including banning indoor restaurants after 9:00 p.m.
“Instead of introducing the guidelines unilaterally, we should set the virus prevention rules together with the public,” said Chung on Thursday at an agency meeting.
Separately, health officials warned on Thursday that a large fourth wave of infections caused by the more transmissible British and South African variants of coronavirus cannot be ruled out. 39 cases of these variants were confirmed.
Protesters are calling for the replenishment of the workforce at a hospital dedicated to the coronavirus pandemic in South Korea. Photo: Kim Chul-Soo / EPA
While South Korea initially succeeded in containing the virus without drastic lockdowns, a gradual approach to social distancing and stricter guidelines have been criticized for having to contain a third wave of transmissions.
At the same time, however, hundreds of restaurant and coffee shop owners across the country were complaining about the impact the bans had on their businesses. Gym owners have been hurt by restrictions that reopened in protest against strict social distancing rules before the ban was recently lifted.
With around 25% of the labor market, South Korea has one of the world’s highest proportions of self-employed people and is therefore particularly prone to downturns.
Authorities on Sunday extended the social distancing requirement by two weeks and called for vigilance before the New Year break, when tens of millions of Koreans normally travel the country. The vacation starts on February 11th.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 7 new deaths and 451 new cases as of Wednesday for a total of 1,448 deaths and 79,762 cases.