The South Korean government has eased social distancing to Level 2.5 to 2 and decided to extend opening hours for restaurants and bars in the Seoul metropolitan region from Monday. However, restaurant and bar owners are expressing discontent about the measure, saying, “There is no clear evidence, while effect is uncertain.”
The National Emergency Countermeasure Committee for the Self-Employed issued on Sunday a statement on the extension of operating hours by one hour for restaurants and bars, saying that there is no scientific evidence, and it is only a stopgap measure. “The government has repeatedly exercised the practice of maintaining restrictions when the self-employed remain calm and easing them when we protest,” said committee spokesperson Kim Jong-min. “The government should present scientific evidence on how restricting the operating hours to 10 will help quarantine.”
The Emergency Countermeasures Committee for Restaurants and Bars raised issue with discrimination against different types of businesses. “We don’t understand the measure of easing that discriminate other businesses from PC cafes, which are allowed for operating without any restrictions,” said Lee Ki-eun, the chairman of the committee. “We had suggested the quarantine authority that headcount restriction per area can be used in lieu of operating hour restriction but the authority only turned a deaf ear.”
Owners of PC cafes have also expressed discontent, saying that although operating hour restriction has been lifted, the fundamental problem has yet to be resolved. “Easing of the social distancing level to Level 2 will only lift restriction on operating hours. Practical obstacle remains unresolved,” said Kim Ki-hong, the chairman of the National Countermeasure Committee for PC Cafes. “COVID-19 spread widely again to cause the social distancing level to be hiked, we could have chronic problems anew including hiring of part-timers.”
The self-employed plan to continue taking collective action to inform the public and authorities about difficulties they currently face. “At a meeting that will take place on Tuesday at the quarantine authority’s suggestion, we will urge the authority to apply reasonable quarantine measures,” the committee for the self-employed said.