The government announced the social distancing rule for each region to be applied from Thursday. Level 2 will be applied in the Seoul metropolitan area in which eight or less people can gather and restaurants and cafes can open until midnight, but up to six people can gather for the two weeks of grace period. Level 1 will be applied to non-Seoul metropolitan areas, which puts no limit on the number of people gathering and opening hours, but most areas except South Chungcheong Province will have a two-week grace period in which up to eight people can gather.
The government put a grace period because the COVID-19 is spreading again after a flinch. With mass infection occurring at schools, private educational institutes, religious facilities, indoor sports facilities, daycare centers and more, over 600 tested positive for the past five consecutive days. The Delta variant is spreading globally, which led to more than 100 overseas inflow cases during the weekend. It has not been confirmed whether there is a case infected with the Delta variant, but the possibility of the variant spreading grows along with the number of inflow cases.
It is concerning that easing the social distance rules before the summer vacation period amid the ominous spreading of the virus may send out a wrong signal that we can now take the guard down. If the number of COVID-19 patients continues to grow and a significant number of medical staff should be dispatched for epidemiological investigation, the mass vaccination plan in the second half of the year could stumble. A delay in the plan could trigger the spread again, creating a vicious cycle.
Lifting the mask-wearing obligation of those who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine shot outdoors seems hasty when the primary vaccination rate is around 30 percent. Countries that lifted the mask obligation indoors and outdoors before Korea are making it mandatory again. It is safe to refrain from roaming around unnecessarily and wear a mask indoors and outdoors where a lot of people gather.