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Korea halts 'return to normalcy' plan amid COVID-19 surge

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in along with other leaders decided to implement tougher measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. File Photo by Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE
South Korean President Moon Jae-in along with other leaders decided to implement tougher measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. File Photo by Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE

Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Six weeks into South Korea's "return to normalcy" plan, leaders have decided to reinstate social distancing measures as the country grapples with record COVID-19 cases.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters meeting that the government plans to implement tougher measures, including restrictions on private gatherings and a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants and cafes for a period of 16 days.

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The leader added that compensation measures would be put in place for those who will be most affected by the restrictions: business owners and the self-employed.

Detailed measures are likely to come out Friday and remain in effect until Jan. 2.

South Korea had a record high of 7,850 new cases on Tuesday with a vast majority concentrated in the greater Seoul area. The number of severe cases hit an all-time high of 989 on Wednesday.

The Omicron variant was identified in the country two weeks ago, and 128 new cases of the variant have been identified since then.

Overseas travelers will be required to quarantine for 10 days, a rule that will remain in effect until Jan. 6.

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