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Level 4 Social Distancing Maintained for Four More Weeks (Level 4 for Greater Seoul, Level 3 for Others)

  • Date : 2021-09-27
  • Hit : 1228

Level 4 Social Distancing Maintained for Four More Weeks (Level 4 for Greater Seoul, Level 3 for Others)

- Social distancing levels maintained for four weeks to evaluate the impact of increased travel during the Chuseok holiday on the spread of COVID-19 -
- Vaccination incentives scaled up for private meetings (up to 6 persons in Level 4, up to 8 in Level 3) -
- Up to 8 persons allowed for family gatherings at home if some are fully vaccinated in areas under Level 4 during Chuseok (Sep. 17-23) -
- Restrictions strengthened such as the normal collection of toll fees and only window seats for sale on trains -
- Visits to nursing hospitals and facilities allowed regardless of social distancing levels (Sep. 13-26): Contact visits permitted only when both the inpatient and visitor are fully vaccinated, and non-contact visits allowed otherwise -

□ The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters (CDSCH) held a meeting today (Sep. 3) at the Video Conference Room of the Government Complex Seoul. During the meeting presided over by CDSCH head Prime Minister Kim Bu-gyeom and attended by representatives of government ministries, 17 municipal governments, and 18 metropolitan and provincial police agencies, the participants discussed the social distancing level adjustment plan and special COVID-19 measures during the Chuseok holiday as well as the latest updates on the COVID-19 responses by local governments.

1. Social Distancing Adjustment and Special Measures for Chuseok

□ CDSCH reviewed the Plan for Social Distancing Adjustment and Special COVID-19 Measures for Chuseok from the Central Disaster Management Headquarters (headed by Minister Kwon Deok-cheol) currently being operated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

<1> Current Trends and Analysis

□ In terms of the nation’s infection curve, the number of daily new cases has more or less remained stable over the recent three weeks following a 19% increase week-on-week in the second week of August.

○ Greater Seoul, where new cases are in the 1,000 range, accounts for 67% of the total, showing that the fourth wave of infection is continuing in the region.

□ The number of critical and severe cases has increased to the 400 range, and as a result, the number of ICU and other hospital beds available is decreasing.

○ The nation’s healthcare system still has sufficient capacity to handle cases with 398 ICU beds (42%), 2,964 beds in hospitals dedicated to infectious disease (32%), and 9,526 beds in residential treatment centers (47%) available, but these figures continue to decline.

□ Taken together, the fatigue arising from prolonged social distancing; the impact of stringent policies on people’s livelihood, particularly on the economic activities of the self-employed and small merchant businesses; and the subsequent growing backlash against restrictions are having a negative influence on policy compliance.

○ Although population movement has decreased slightly thanks to the enforcement of toughened measures such as Level 4 rules in Greater Seoul, there are a growing number of voices calling for the easing COVID-19 measures at various facilities such as restaurants, cafes, and wedding halls.

□ The total number of first COVID-19 vaccine doses administered stood at 29.03 million (56.5%) and second doses at 15.22 million (29.6%) as of the end of August. Some 8 million and 11 million doses, respectively, will be added by September.

* As of Sep. 3 at 00:00, 57.7% of the population has been administered the first dose while 32.7% is fully vaccinated.

○ On the back of the full vaccination of people aged 60 and older and the first dose administration for people in their 50s, in particular, the overall severity of symptomatic patients with COVID-19 is expected to decrease.

By Aug. 31


New Doses

By Sep. 30

First dose

29.03 mil.

8 mil.+

36 mil.+ (70%)

Second dose

15.22 mil.

11 mil.

24 mil. (47%)

○ If the current level of restrictions is maintained and vaccination rates pick up, the fourth wave of COVID-19 is projected to continue until early September with the number of daily new cases reaching its peak at approximately 2,000-2,300 from around September 5 to 20 and then beginning to drop.

□ Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, falls in the fourth week of September (Sep. 19-22), three weeks away from today (Sep. 6). Therefore, when adjusting social distancing levels, it is necessary to consider the potential impact of the plan on the infection curve during and immediately after the holiday.

○ If travel surges during the holiday, the further spread of the virus and even a new infectious wave are likely to occur. Still, as vaccinations continue to rise, 70% of the population is expected to receive the first dose before Chuseok.

○ In consideration of the recommendations made for the previous two traditional holidays for people to refrain from visiting their hometowns and the current quarantine situations, special measures have been developed to ensure the safety of citizens during the upcoming Chuseok holiday.

□ Discussions were held to collect opinions from relevant ministries, local governments, and the Committee on Infectious Disease Control and Prevention in Daily Life and reach an overall consensus on the adjustment plan for social distancing taking into account the Chuseok holiday.

○ In general, local governments agreed with the plan while suggesting to scale up vaccination incentives for private gatherings, set an upper limit for each gathering (eight people), and relax restrictions for occasions such as wedding ceremonies.

○ The Committee on Infectious Disease Control and Prevention in Daily Life agreed to the proposal with comments on the need to boost and simplify vaccination incentives and prepare a roadmap towards transitioning into a new COVID-19 intervention framework beginning in October.

<2> Social Distancing Level Adjustment Plan

□ It is difficult to entirely loosen the infection prevention and control protocols until the end of September, given the large scale of the virus spread and no signs of it diminishing.

○ However, in consideration of several factors such as the nation approaching its goal of having 70% of the population receive the first vaccine shot, the social fatigue caused by prolonged social distancing, and weakening policy compliance, a limited alleviation of restrictions is being pursued.

□ The current social distancing levels (Level 4 for Greater Seoul, Level 3 for Non-Greater Seoul) and the ban on private gatherings of more than five persons in Non-Greater Seoul will be extended for the four weeks starting September 6 (Mon.) at 00:00 through October 3 (Sun.) at 24:00.

* Si and gun with a population of less than 100,000 in Non-Greater Seoul will continuously be able to adjust social distancing levels at their discretion.

○ Close observation is required during the Chuseok holiday (Sep. 19–22) and through the subsequent week in order to assess whether or not increased travel during the Chuseok holiday will trigger a surge in the spread of infection.

○ Moreover, as it is necessary to consider the fatigue arising from the frequent adjustments of social distancing measures and the predictable impact of the holiday, this distancing scheme will be maintained for four weeks onward.

□ Nationwide, only fully vaccinated people are not counted in the limit for private meetings.

○ For the areas in Level 4, private gatherings were limited to up to four persons before 18:00 and up to two after 18:00, while for restaurants and cafes, the limit was up to four, if fully vaccinated people are included, until 21:00.

○ According to the adjustment plan and scaled vaccination incentives, gatherings are allowed for up to six persons, if some of them are fully vaccinated, at restaurants, cafes, and homes.

- Still, in the case of those who have received the first dose only or no vaccination, private gathering are limited to four persons before 18:00 and two after 18:00 as before.

○ For the areas in Level 3, private gatherings were restricted to up to four people in all publicly used facilities and at homes. However, according to the scale-up of vaccination incentives, the limit is relaxed to up to eight people if some of them are fully vaccinated.

- This Level 3 incentive is commonly applied to all gatherings in publicly used facilities and at homes. However, in the case of people who have received the first shot only or no vaccination, private gatherings are limited to four people as before.

- In addition, the provinces* that have applied the vaccine incentives of not counting fully vaccinated people in the limit of private gatherings in Level 3 will follow the upper ceiling of eight people, making it a commonly shared limit throughout the nation.

* Seven provinces including Chungbuk, Chungnam, Jeonbuk, Daegu, Gyeongbuk, Gyeongnam, and Gangwon

□ Taking into account the economic difficulties at the grassroots level of the economy, including the self-employed and small merchants, the hours permitted for in-store food consumption at restaurants and cafes for the areas in Level 4 will be pushed back to 22:00 from 21:00.

□ In addition, the restrictions on private gatherings (in all levels) and the business hour limit of 22:00 for publicly used facilities in Level 4 will not be subject to arbitrary adjustment by local governments.

□ In response to on-site suggestions for improvement, some are being reflected as follows to reasonably adjust the preventive measures to a level that ensures their effectiveness.

○ In Level 3-4, up to 49 people are currently allowed to attend each wedding ceremony, but the limit increases to 99 if no meals are provided (the current 49-person limit applies if food and drink are provided at the ceremony).

* This regulation can be applied to each space with a separate travel route in Level 3, but up to 99 persons are permitted to attend an event in Level 4.

○ It is recommended to manage visitor record-keeping using QR code or Safe Call based logs for super supermarkets (SSMs) and general retail businesses with a size of 300㎡ or larger in the areas under Level 3 or higher. Local governments may make it mandatory to keep visitor logs in consideration of the quarantine situation.

○ Since the distinction between general and academic events is ambiguous, the definition of academic events has been clarified to avoid issues such as labeling general events as academic events.

- Academic events are defined as events* hosted or organized by universities, research institutions, and academic societies to make presentations or discuss research results on academic or technological issues.

* They include symposiums, conferences, seminars, and workshops.

□ On-site requests other than the abovementioned revisions are difficult to reflect in the adjustment plan as there are growing voices for alleviating COVID-19 rules and concerns about a lack of comparability in measures across different businesses. They will be reviewed when adjusting distancing measures in the future.

○ At the same time, the social distancing levels will be lowered in tandem of the number of new cases, and if they remain high, COVID-19 measures will be alleviated centered around vaccinated people.

< Highlights of Social Distancing Measures (Sep.6-Oct..3) >


Level 4

Level 3

Private gatherings

Up to 4 people before 18:00,

up to 2 after 18:00

* Up to 6 at restaurants, cafes, and homes for fully vaccinated

Up to 4 people

* Up to 8 for fully vaccinated

Up to 8 people for family gatherings at homes, including up to 4 partially/non-vaccinated, during the holiday (Sep. 17-23)

Publicly used facilities

Gatherings prohibited

Entertainment facilities, dance/nightclubs, gamsung jujeom, hunting pocha, colatek/dance halls, holdem pub/game centers


22:00 operation limit

Singing rooms, restaurants/cafes*, indoor sports facilities, cinemas, internet/gaming cafes, private educational institutes in Group 1-3 (all except those where gatherings prohibited)

* Up to 6 people permitted at restaurants and cafes if some are fully vaccinated included (until 22:00)

Entertainment facilities, holdem pub/game centers, colatek/dance halls, singing rooms, restaurants/cafes, public baths, swimming pool facilities, PR centers for door-to-door and direct sales

* Up to 8 people permitted if some are fully vaccinated

Events & assemblies

Prohibited except 1-person protests

50+ people prohibited

Sports events

No spectators

(Indoor) 20% of facility capacity, (Outdoor) 30% of facility capacity

Wedding halls

Up to 49 people

* Up to 99 if no meals provided

Up to 49 people

* Up to 99 if no meals provided

Religious activities

10% of facility capacity,

up to 99 people,

gatherings/events, dining, lodging prohibited

20% facility capacity, gatherings/events, dining, lodging prohibited,

Less than 50 people for outdoor events

* The underlined sections indicate adjusted and improved measures.

□ The medical response system will continue to be expanded in preparation for an increase in the number of confirmed cases.

○ Available hospital beds will be efficiently operated through the joint utilization of beds nationwide and prompt transfer* of patients whose symptoms have improved.

* The financial adequacy assessment for ICU beds is in operation, and incentives are being provided to residential treatment centers for beds dedicated to moderate patients.

○ Hospital beds allocated for COVID-19 will continue to be secured through the administrative order (effective on August 13) for tertiary general hospitals and general hospitals located in Greater Seoul.

- Through monitoring the trends of confirmed cases and hospital bed operation rates outside of Greater Seoul, additional beds will be secured if needed through consultation with local governments and medical institutions.

<3> Special Infection Control Measures for Chuseok

□ In order to contain the spread of infection during the Chuseok holiday, special infection preventive and control measures, coupled with the adjustment of social distancing, will be implemented for two weeks from September 13 (Mon.) to September 26 (Sun.).

① Building an environment that supports infection control
□ It is recommended to minimize the number of people (in a small group) visiting hometowns and only after being fully vaccinated or testing negative.

○ However, it is strongly recommended to refrain from visiting if parents or family members are old or not vaccinated yet.

○ At the same time, it is requested to send greetings to family members or friends through electronic communication platforms and carry out online memorial services for ancestors in small groups at homes while observing COVID-19 protocols.

□ During the Chuseok holiday, Level 3 social distancing codes for private gatherings will be applied to family gatherings at homes in the areas in Level 4, with up to eight people permitted if some are fully vaccinated.

○ Up to four people are allowed for those who have been partially vaccinated or who are not vaccinated. The limit is increased to eight if including fully vaccinated people.

○ This regulation will be enforced for one week from September 17 (Fri.) to September 23 (Thu.), including the Chuseok holiday, and effective only for at-home gatherings and not for multi-use facilities in areas in Level 4.

□ Vaccinations and testing need to be carried out before visiting hometowns, and core health protocols must be followed, such as canceling or postponing hometown visits if there are any abnormal symptoms and refraining from entering publicly used facilities.

○ It is recommended to use a private vehicle if possible when traveling to hometowns, minimize the time spent at service areas, stay in hometowns only briefly, and comply with COVID-19 protocols such as wearing a mask at gatherings.

○ After returning home, it is requested to refrain from visiting publicly used facilities, stay at home and monitor conditions, and get tested before returning to everyday life.

□ Government ministries will actively identify and promote digital cultural and leisure contents so that people can enjoy recreational leisure activities at home during the holiday.

○ To this end, online contents tailored to the holiday such as performances and exhibitions will be provided* (Sep. 17-26 Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism).

* A special section for Chuseok (Sep. 17-26) on At-home Culture Life (culture.go.kr/home) will be operated.

○ Contact-free holiday (Sep. 1-22)* and science and culture programs (Sep. 18-22, Ministry of Science and ICT)
** such as observing the moon at a science museum will be operated on the digital learning platform.

* Example) ① Enjoy Chuseok with Your Family in the Metaverse (e.g., operating a family photo studio, family talent show event, etc.), ② Contact-Free Holiday with Family (educating how to send greetings, pocket money, or gifts online)
** Example) Live broadcast of the full moon/space station observation, introduction of and commentary on science news on the topic of the Moon

○ Free video calls (returning home via telecommunications) will be supported for all Korean people during the Chuseok holiday, and data (50GB per month, 2 months, Ministry of Science and ICT) will be provided for small merchants (subscribers of the merchant pricing plan).

○ KTX special discount products will be open to KORAIL members who have not reserved seats to return to their hometowns for Chuseok (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport).

② Strengthening intervention measures to minimize the risk of infection

□ No additional railroad tickets will be available with only window seats released, toll fees will not be waived during the holiday, and the number of passengers on coastal passenger ships will be limited to 50% of capacity.

○ Passengers must check their body temperature before boarding at railway stations (50 stations), the travel routes of onboarding and offboarding passengers will be separated, and train tickets will be sold online only.

○ Food and drink consumption inside the facilities of service areas is prohibited. The prevention of crowding and enforcement of infection control measures will be reinforced through installing thermal imaging cameras and providing real-time crowding information.

○ Traffic on highways will be distributed to keep congestion under control.

* Real-time provision of detour road traffic information (app and website of the National Traffic Information Center, www.its.go.kr)

□ It is recommended to use online memorials and tributes if possible instead of paying respects at family cemeteries in person (MOHW, Korea Forest Service).

○ Charnel houses will cap the number of daily visitors and operate a reservation system, while closing the ancestral ritual rooms and rest rooms inside their facilities.

○ It is recommended to use cemetery lawn care services (forestry cooperatives, agricultural cooperatives) if possible. Strict compliance with COVID-19 guidelines when mowing at a cemetery should be informed and promoted (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Korea Forest Service) such as keeping a 2m distance from other groups, avoiding crowded times, and minimizing the number of attendees and duration at the site.

□ The enforcement of infection control measures will be toughened for distribution channels such as traditional markets and department stores that are expected to receive many visitors during the Chuseok holiday.

○ Traditional markets should remain vigilant about disinfection, and special on-site inspections (1,705, 13 Regional SMEs and Startups Offices) will be conducted. It is recommended for them to keep visitor logs using the Safe Call Entry Control Service. Special online stores for 350 traditional markets will be open to promote their sales (Ministry of SMEs and Startups).

○ In the case of department stores and large discount stores, in particular super supermarkets (SSMs) with a size of 300㎡ or larger, it is recommended to manage visitor logs and ban event gatherings and food or beverage samples (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy).

□ Culture and art facilities, including national and public museums and galleries, will operate a reservation system and paid services (some services such as royal tomb tour). Toughened COVID-19 protocols will be enforced (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Ministry of Science and ICT, Cultural Heritage Administration), such as limiting and posting the allowed capacity and designating a quarantine manager.

○ For performance halls and cinemas, online reservation is recommended. Food and drink will not be allowed to be carried in or consumed inside, and social distancing rules such as keeping a seat empty between customer groups should be followed.

□ Regardless of social distancing level, visits to nursing hospitals and facilities will be allowed during the Chuseok holiday (Sep. 13 (Mon.) - 26 (Sun.), 2 weeks) with a reservation system to avoid crowding.

○ Contact visits will be permitted if both the inpatient and visitor are fully vaccinated. Otherwise, only no-contact visits will be possible.

○ For workers in nursing hospitals and facilities, PCR tests will be conducted on a regular basis*, and their compliance with health protocols will be checked over the phone every day (on-site inspection if necessary). In the event of a large number of confirmed cases, every effort will be made to curb the spread of the virus, such as dispatching the Emergency Response Team to the site.

* Once a week in Level 4, once a week or every two weeks in Level 3

□ On-site inspections of high-risk facilities will be reinforced through the designation of a government ministry responsible for each facility and special inspections by local governments.

* Restaurants, cafes, distribution stores (traditional markets, department stores), businesses susceptible to infection (call centers, distribution and logistics centers, door-to-door sales centers), facilities for foreigners, homeless shelters, nursing hospitals and facilities

○ At the same time, quarantine and safety inspections will be strengthened for major transportation facilities such as rest areas, railway stations, and terminals.

* (Service areas, etc.) Aug. 30-Sep. 10, (Coastal passenger facilities) Aug. 23-Sep. 3, (Other facilities) Intensive inspection in connection with on-site inspections of each existing facility (continuously)

③ Maintaining vigilant infection control and medical response systems

□ Call services for the general public and on-site inspection control will be strengthened through the operations of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Call Center (☎ 1339) and emergency organizations and workforce.

○ The KDCA Call Center will be available 24/7 for the public to inquire and consult about self-quarantine protocols, entry protocols for international travelers, and adverse reactions after vaccination.

○ On-site COVID-19 response efforts will be reinforced, such as the operation of the emergency response system, rotation of essential workers, and management of patients with suspected infection and contacts.

□ During the Chuseok holiday, the healthcare system such as screening centers and hospitals dedicated to infectious disease will be normally operated.

○ A rapid testing system will be maintained through the seamless operation of screening centers and temporary screening clinics nationwide and the provision of information on their locations and operating hours*.

* Information such as operating hours and locations will be provided through the COVID-19 information website (ncov.mohw.go.kr) and the web portal of the National Emergency Medical Center (www.e-gen.or.kr).

○ In order to promote testing upon returning home, additional temporary screening clinics will be set up and operated* (13 openings: 4 railway stations, 4 terminals, 5 service areas) near transportation hubs such as highways.

* (Seoul 1) East Seoul Intercity Bus Terminal; (Busan 1) City Hall (near Busan West Bus Terminal); (Gangwon 3) South Chuncheon Station, Wonju Station, Gangneung Station; (Chungbuk 1) Osong Station; (Jeonbuk 1) near Jeonju Sports Complex-Express Bus Terminal; (Jeonnam 4) Baekyangsa Service Area (in the direction of Suncheon), Seomjin River Service Area (Suncheon direction), Hampyeongcheonji Service Area (in the direction of Mokpo), Boseong Green Tea Service Area (in the direction of Mokpo); (Gyeongnam 2) Changwon Bus Terminal, Tongdosa Service Area (in the direction of Busan)

○ To prevent any interruption or lack of healthcare services for patients with COVID-19 during the Chuseok holiday, COVID-19 treatment hospitals and residential treatment centers will be operated at all times, emergency medical centers will offer 24/7 care services, and information services (app to provide emergency medical service information, etc.) on which medical institutions and pharmacies are open will be provided.

□ Overseas entrants and self-quarantined people will continue to be managed.

○ Exclusive inland transportation for international flight passengers and temporary living facilities will be run at all times, and a 24-hour monitoring and emergency response system for self-quarantined people* will be developed and operated.

* Maintaining the 24-hour GIS situation board monitoring and reporting system (si/gun/gu → city/province and CDSCH), etc.

□ CDSCH is calling for the public to visit their hometowns in a minimum number of people (small groups) for Chuseok this year after being fully vaccinated or testing negative and to stay home after travel to observe symptoms and actively get tested.

2. 905,000 Moderna Vaccine Doses to Arrive on Sep. 3

□ The government announced that 905,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine* will be arriving at Incheon International Airport on September 3 (Fri).

* Flight Number: KE270, Arrival Time: Sep. 3 (Fri.) at 12:40PM

○ The shipment of the 905,000 doses will be made after the 10.21 million shots received on September 2 (Thu.), and more doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered gradually over the following days.

○ The total number of doses of the Moderna vaccine that have been introduced to the nation, including the shots to arrive on September 3, stands at 53.72 million.

□ The government will continue to consult with the drug company to ensure its supply of vaccine doses without interruption.

○ The public will be notified about the doses to be delivered later once their shipment is confirmed.

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