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Coronavirus

South Korea Will Prohibit Private Social Gatherings of Five or More People

December 22, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will prohibit private social gatherings of five or more people and shut down ski resorts and major tourist spots nationwide starting on Christmas Eve as it contends with a surge in coronavirus infections.

The restrictions announced Tuesday extend to a national level similar rules set earlier by authorities in the Seoul metropolitan area. It is the most serious step the government has taken to reinstate social distancing after months of easing.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun says the measures will be in place at least until Jan. 3.

The Seoul area has been at the center of a viral resurgence that has overwhelmed hospitals and increased death tolls. The surge has put pressure on the government to raise social distancing restrictions to maximum levels, something policymakers have resisted for weeks out of economic concerns.

Visitors will also be prohibited at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and churches and other religious facilities will be shut. Restaurants cannot seat groups of five or more people, must maintain social distancing between diners and could face fines for violations.

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