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South Korea to ease coronavirus restrictions as number of cases declines

A social distancing decal is posted outside the exchange at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, March 27, 2020.

MATTHEW KEELER/STARS AND STRIPES

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 11, 2020

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will ease coronavirus prevention measures for much of the country beginning Monday due to a steady decrease in the number of cases, officials said Sunday.

The South will revert to the lowest level on a three-tiered system for enforcing social distancing rules aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

That means public facilities like museums and sporting events may reopen to the public, although authorities stressed people should still wear masks and restaurants and bars should limit capacity and maintain safe seating arrangements.

Restrictions also will remain on door-to-door sales in parts of the Seoul metropolitan area due to continued concerns about cluster outbreaks.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the decision to go to Level One was made to mitigate the negative impact the strict rules were having on mental health and the economy.

“The average number of local infections fell to less than 60 on a daily basis over the past two weeks … which led us to judge that the spread is being contained,” Chung was quoted as saying by the Yonhap News Agency.

The South reported 58 new cases on Sunday for a total of 24,606, with 432 deaths.

South Korea, which was an early epicenter of the virus after it first appeared in China late last year, never implemented a strict lockdown.

However, it closed many facilities and implemented fines to enforce mask usage after a new outbreak began in mid-August.

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