The South Korean government has announced new social distancing rules where restrictions on business hours are relaxed while rules around density tighten. Introducing social bubbles, small groups of up to 10 people such as family members and colleagues who can have physical contact, is also being discussed. Canada and New Zealand have adopted the strategy.
The new rules, which are expected to be introduced in March, were announced by the government during an online press conference on Thursday. The rules are comprised of “sustainable rules” that rely on individual autonomy and responsibility.
Bans on gatherings and limited business hours will be reduced to a minimum if they affect people’s livelihood. Instead, density will be more tightly controlled by limiting the number of people in an indoor place and introducing the so-called “one strike, you are out” where businesses that flout the rules will be held accountable and subject to an administrative order.
Social distancing stages will also change. The government is reviewing the possibility of simplifying the five-stage system to have three stages, which will ease the criteria for each stage as a result. Currently, daily case numbers reach more than 300 to enter stage 2, but it might change under the new rules.
The rule of four, which was integral to preventing a third wave, will likely remain. The government, however, is looking at “social bubbles” where people in the same group are allowed to have close physical contact. Up to 10 friends, family and colleagues who meet one another everyday can form a social bubble, while meeting outside the bubble is strictly prohibited. This can help reduce COVID-19 fatigue and combat loneliness that come with strict social distancing rules as people can still meet those who are close to them.
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