The government has announced new social distancing guidelines that will be put in place from Monday for two weeks forward. The new guideline lifted restrictions on social gatherings. Under the adjusted guidelines, restaurants and cafes in the Seoul Metropolitan Area can accept private gatherings of up to eight people, including four unvaccinated, until 10 pm, and gatherings of ten people, including four unvaccinated, are allowed in non-metropolitan areas by midnight. Outdoor sports events that have been conducted without spectators in the Seoul Metropolitan Area may have crowds of up to 30% capacity, vaccinated only.
The government has decided to ease some of the regulations while maintaining the social distancing level as it stands based on determination that COVID-19 vaccination is smoothly under way and the number of new daily cases has stabilized below 2,000. By Thursday midnight, COVID-19 vaccination rate for first doses stands at 78.4%, and 62.5% of the population has been fully vaccinated. The government plans to transition into ‘With Corona’ phase by November once the double dose vaccination rate reaches 70% and new infections are kept under control. That means this round of social distancing adjustments may be the last adjustment.
Still, we cannot afford to be complacent. Although COVID-19 fatality rate may have fallen to 0.3%, it is still higher than those with the flu (0.04~0.08%) and furthermore, COVID-19 daily deaths still stand at 10 due to the huge proportion of the infected population. If virus transmission does not let up as more people travel to enjoy fall foliage views, social distancing may be prolonged. Until herd immunity is reached, we must continue to pay attention to personal hygiene by wearing masks indoors and washing hands regularly.
As ‘With Corona’ phase is set to begin as early as Nov. 1, new preventive measures will be put in place. That does not mean people will be able to return to pre-pandemic normal, but restrictions on social gatherings and business operating hours will be lifted off depending on vaccination rates. The government should devise reasonable prevention guidelines that minimize social costs, help the vaccinated return to normal lives, and protect the unvaccinated from risks of infection.