Oct. 12 (UPI) -- South Korea is relaxing physical distancing guidelines but local businesses crippled by a partial shutdown could be struggling to recover in the aftermath of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in August.
In a sign that a K-shaped recovery remains a challenge even in countries where anti-epidemic measures have been successful, businesses in South Korea including buffet restaurants, gyms, and karaoke bars are fighting to resume normal operation, Yonhap and Dailian reported Monday. A K-shaped recovery occurs when different segments of an economy recover from a recession unevenly.
Coronavirus restrictions were lowered to Level 1 on Sunday, but even major restaurant chains, including VIPS, a popular steakhouse run by CJ Foodville of CJ Group, failed to attract large numbers of customers at key locations on Monday during lunch hour, according to Dailian.
The official government decision to allow buffet restaurants like VIPS to offer indoor dining could have come unexpectedly. Some restaurants were not ready for reopening by Monday, the report says.
The decision to permit buffet restaurants to resume services was welcomed among retailers in shopping malls, where store owners told Dailian the reopening of nearby buffets increases foot traffic to their businesses.
South Korea's cram schools or night schools have also been allowed to reopen classrooms. Students who spoke to Yonhap said the reopening is good for their studies as in-person classes are more effective than independent study or online learning.
South Korea's airport duty-free shops have also lost revenue due to restrictions on global travel. Stores at Incheon International Airport that are going out of business are seeking bidders, EDaily reported Monday. Few companies took part in the bidding on Monday, and included only one large company, one small firm and one medium-sized enterprise.
The city of Seoul has also modified restrictions on crowds. Following the outbreak in August, the South Korean capital had said gatherings should be limited to 10 people. That number has been adjusted to 100 people, including in the central business district. Conservative protesters who are opposed to President Moon Jae-in say they are still banned from gathering, however, Hankook Ilbo reported Monday.
South Korea added 97 cases on Monday, with total COVID-19 cases at 24,703.