RELEVANT officials announced an OVERHAUL of their social distancing guidelines this past weekend NOW COMPRISING of FIVE tiers which authorities hope will allow for a SUSTAINABLE fight against the pandemic while ensuring economic stability and public safety.
For more on the new measures which are poised to go into effect on Saturday I have Kim Ji-yeon here in the studio.
So Ji-yeon what are some of the most notable changes?
The current three-tier system, which comprises of levels one, two and three, will be expanded to five categories, namely level one, one.five, two, two.five and three.
The government has divided the nation into seven zones, with the level of each zone to be determined based on the average number of daily infections over a one-week period.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the restructuring is aimed at minimizing changes that comes with each social distancing level, saying up until now, changes in the levels have created too many disruptions that have burdened society and businesses.
"We are dividing the social distancing rules further from three levels into five to better reflect reality. We are also redesigning our disease prevention measures to make them more tailored and to make them more effective."
In determining the social distancing level, a different set of criteria will be applied to the Seoul Metropolitan Area, the most populous city in Korea where a majority of the country's population reside, and regions outside the capital area.
For example, the level will be raised from one to one.five, if the number of daily infections in the Seoul Metropolitan Area rose by 100 and 30 or more in other regions.
Level two will take effect when the number of cases exceeds 300, which is about double that of level two.five.
If 400 to 500 daily cases are reported level two.five measures will take effect.
Level three social distancing, which is highest on the ladder, will be issued nationwide if more than 800 daily infections are recorded.
Can you give us a further breakdown of the five levels and the changes they entail in our daily lives?
Level one, which is the current level, signifies a controllable level of transmission that allows people to carry out their ordinary lives while wearing masks.
Social gatherings and events are allowed, as long as authorities are notified in advance of any gatherings of five-hundred people or more.
Under level one.five the use of public-use facilities is restricted and gatherings of one-hundred or more people are banned.
At level two, the outbreak is poised to spread nationwide, and gatherings in entertainment facilities, especially those that are open into the late hours and serve alcohol are banned.
Only take-outs or deliveries are allowed in restaurants after 9 PM.
What's interesting is that under level two, cinemas and live performance halls will still be allowed to open, but with socially-distanced seating arrangements.
I understand that the top two levels on the ladder will call for more stringent measures.
Yes. The government will urge the public to stay at home, when level two.five social distancing measures are in effect.
Internet cafes and cinemas will not be allowed to stay open after 9 PM, and religious services will be held online.
At level three, the nation will effectively be under lockdown, where schools will shut down and sporting events will be canceled, and gatherings of ten or more are prohibited.
What's interesting is that restaurants and cafes will still be allowed to be open under level three, but rigorous distancing measures will apply, with only one person allowed per eight square-meters of floor space.
What are health experts saying about these new guidelines?
They're divided, but they see more good in it for the most part.
Some say the measures are aimed at mitigating the loss of life rather than stemming the spread of COVID-19, reflecting the limitations of applying stringent measures for a prolonged period of time, in consideration of public fatigue.
But, there are concerns that the measures could be interpreted as the government taking its foot off the pedal, at a time when a resurgence of the outbreak is seen as distinct possibility over the fall and winter seasons.
If you recall, there was a spike in the number of new infections between the months of May and July linked to the nightlife district of Itaewon, and that occurred while the country was under level one social distancing.
Thanks Ji-yeon for that report.