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Up to 6 people can gather starting from Mon.; vaccine passes suspended at dept. stores and supermarkets Updated: 2022-01-17 10:03:26 KST

We start with the latest COVID-19 situation here in South Korea.
The country saw new cases drop below 4-thousand on Monday.
And starting from Monday, South Korean health authorities suspended some vaccine pass rules in large stores and supermarkets and have changed the social distancing rules to allow social gatherings of up to six people.
To tell you more, our Kim Yeon-seung is on the line.

After some backlash from the public and a ruling by a court in Seoul to suspend vaccine pass measures in department stores and large supermarkets, the South Korean government finally took nationwide action.
They're revoking the vaccine pass rules in those facilities altogether.

"The spread has downsized compared to December when we first expanded vaccine passes. Considering prevention protocols and the public's reception of them, there seems to be a need to loosen the vaccine pass rules for low-risk facilities."

These low risk facilities also include museums, movie theaters, private academies, and study rooms.
But vaccine passes are still necessary for cafes, restaurants, and bars.
The government is also planning to ease the penalties for not following the vaccine pass rules to lift some of the burden for business owners.

What do the health authorities mean by the infection trend downsizing?

Well South Korea has been seeing under 5-thousand cases a day for the fourth week straight.
On Monday as well, authorities reported 3,859 new infections.
But the latest concern lies with Omicron.
According to health authorities this morning, Omicron cases made up almost 27 percent of domestic infections, more than double the week before.
They also make up almost 95 percent of the imported cases.
Since Omicron could drive the infection rates back up health authorities are holding the social distancing measures in place for another three weeks.
Restaurants, bars, gyms, public baths still have a 9PM business curfew.
Private academies, PC rooms, and kids' cafes can stay open until 10PM.
But social gatherings now allow up to six people slightly eased from the previous four-person meeting cap.
These measures will continue until at least Seollal, the Lunar New Year, when there's expected to be lots of gatherings and crosscountry travel.
Back to you Mokyeon.
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