Seoul’s mayor, Oh Se-hoon, announced Wednesday that the city would extend for a week the current social distancing regulations for the capital and its surrounding areas. The decision, which came less than 12 hours before the restrictions were supposed to ease on Thursday, followed an emergency meeting with 25 district mayors.
The government had previously said that beginning Thursday, gatherings of up to six people would be allowed, an increase from the current limit of four, regardless of whether they are held indoors or outdoors. After two weeks, that number would have risen to eight. The government had also announced that businesses could operate until midnight, two hours longer than the current 10 p.m. curfew.
Wednesday’s move put those plans on hold for now.
The delay to relax protocol comes after a spike in coronavirus cases earlier this week, as the country broke a two-month record of 794 new daily cases on Tuesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Seoul also reported 375 new daily cases on Tuesday, the largest amount of new cases in a single day for the city this year. As new infections increase, authorities have expressed concerns about the recent discovery of the Delta variant among confirmed cases.
Mr. Oh said if Seoul did not see a decrease in new reported cases, then the government would decide whether to further extend the delay on lifting restrictions.
Thirty percent of South Korea’s population have received one vaccine dose and 9.5 percent are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.
Countries across Asia and the Pacific region are scrambling to slow the spread of the more infectious Delta variant, reimposing restrictions and stay-at-home orders in a jarring reminder — for societies that had just begun to reopen — that the pandemic is far from over.