The South Korean government has decided to extend the current social distancing guidelines by two more weeks.
With the latest extension, the greater Seoul area will be under Level 2 social distancing measures --the third highest in the five-tier system-- and the rest of the country under Level 1.5 measures until March 14th.
And with much disappointment from small business owners, the government also decided to extend the ban on gatherings of five or more people, and the restrictions on business operating hours for two more weeks.
"The reproduction rate has exceeded one for two consecutive weeks, and an increase in outdoor activities as the new spring semester begins is also a risk factor. Coronavirus variants are also cause for concern. The vaccine rollout has begun in the country, but we have to go a long way to achieve herd immunity."
Chung also expressed concerns, saying if infections surge before the majority of people are vaccinated, the country may face a shortage of healthcare resources.
The health authorities warned on Friday that it will respond firmly to anyone not following the distancing measures.
"Business owners that have failed to follow social distancing regulations will face disadvantages regarding government support funds -- such as emergency disaster relief funds."
But health authorities noted the opening of elementary, middle, and high schools and kindergartens will happen as planned on March 2nd following the guidelines from the Ministry of Education.
Meanwhile, South Korea reported 406 new cases on Friday, slight more than the 396 reported the previous day.
Of the daily new cases, 382 were locally transmitted and 24 were from overseas.
Most of the recent infections were from the greater Seoul area.
Kim Jae-hee, Arirang News.