The government has rushed through a lifting of lockdown restrictions before the presidential election next week.
Health officials met Friday and decided to extend the opening hours of restaurants, coffee shops and other potentially crowded businesses from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., though it wants to maintain the widely ignored nominal cap on permissible gatherings at six people.
They also hinted at fully lifting lockdown in the foreseeable future.
The changes become effective Saturday, just four days before the presidential election, and remain effective until March 20.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in a radio interview Thursday, “Small business owners have practically given up on their lives and we cannot turn a blind eye indefinitely.”
The PM himself has tested positive for COVID-19 and gone into self-isolation until election day. Kim will cast his ballot in early voting for COVID-positive voters on Saturday afternoon.
He developed telltale symptoms after visiting Daegu early this week and had a PCR test that showed up positive. “I only have light symptoms such as a sore throat but am okay,” he said.
Meanwhile, the daily tally of new coronavirus infections surged to a record 266,853 with 186 deaths and 797 severe cases on Friday morning.
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