South Koreans return to work, invade parks and shopping malls as rules of social distancing loosen

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SEOUL (Reuters) – South Koreans return to work and clutter malls, parks, golf courses and some restaurants as South Korea relaxes social distancing rules amid continuing downtrend cases of coronavirus.

A growing list of companies, including SK Innovation and Naver, have ended or cut back on domestic policy in recent weeks, although many continue to work flexible work hours and limit travel and meetings by nobody.

Parks, mountains and golf courses overflowed with visitors over the weekend, while shopping centers and restaurants slowly returned to normal.

The ongoing recovery in South Korea after the first major coronavirus epidemic outside of China contrasts sharply with many other countries where cities remain closed and large home stay orders are in place.

“I am a member of a community soccer club and we went to play on Saturday for the first time in two months,” said Kim Tae-hyung, a 31-year-old powerhouse engineer living in Seoul. “We wore a mask while we were playing, still concerned about the coronavirus, but the weather was fine and I felt so refreshed. “

South Korea extended its social distancing policy by 16 days on Sunday, but offered some relief to religious and sports facilities previously subject to strict restrictions.

The move aims to carefully reopen Asia’s fourth largest economy, with daily infections continuing to hover around 20 or less, most coming from abroad.

The Seoul Defense Ministry also said on Monday that the military was taking back medical control of the candidates while considering easing travel and guest visiting restrictions.

Among other things, a man holding his mask walks over a zebra crossing amidst the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in central Seoul, South Korea, on April 20, 2020. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji

The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 13 new cases on Monday, one day after recording only eight – the first single-digit daily increase since the February 28 peak of 909. The death toll s student at 236.

Health officials urged vigilance, warning that new groups could still emerge at any time, particularly after South Korea held the first national elections last week since the start of the epidemic and before the long holidays starting next week.

Schools have not yet opened and are running online courses.

An official at SK Innovation, a battery manufacturer, said about 80% of its employees will be back this week and will get temperature control at the entrance and keep the distance in the office.

Naver Corp., which operates the largest web portal in South Korea, said it allows less than half of its employees to enter the office, while employees of Netmarble, a mobile game company, enter the office three days a week. week.

“We have installed thermal imaging cameras, body sterilizers and table partitions in the cafeterias,” Naver said in a statement.

Authorities on alert after 58-year-old man living in Busan’s second-largest city was confirmed on Saturday by the virus and had voted in elections, attended Easter religious service and visited restaurants while showing symptoms .

More than 1,000 people are now quarantined or checked after being in contact with the man and his daughter, who is a nurse and has also tested positive, city officials said.

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“We are looking at the pattern of group infections, although it has been mostly small clusters in the past two weeks,” Deputy Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing.

“If we let our guard down in social isolation, (the virus) could come back and hurt and endanger our society. “

Report by Hyonhee Shin and Heekyong Yang; Additional reports from Sangmi Cha; Editing by Michael Perry

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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