( LEAD ) S . Korea renews toughened social distancing rules for1 month : PM

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South Korea will maintain toughened social distancing rules across the nation for one more month, the prime minister said Friday, as the country is bracing for a potential upsurge in infections in the runup to the traditional Chuseok holiday.

Under the renewed plan that will be effective from Monday to Oct. 3, the greater Seoul area will remain under the toughest Level 4 social distancing, while the rest of the country will be under Level 3, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during an interagency meeting on the government’s coronavirus response.

The government partly relieved the current 9 p.m. curfew on cafes and restaurants in the capital area, allowing them to open till 10 p.m. during the next month.

Under the new social distancing scheme, a social gathering of up to six people will be allowed in the capital area before 6 p.m. if two of them are fully vaccinated. After 6 p.m., the same number of six people can assemble if four of them are fully vaccinated, according to the prime minister.

In areas under Level 3 virus curbs, a social gathering of up to eight people will be permitted on condition that at least four of them are fully vaccinated, he said.

The restrictions will be further relieved during the fourth week of the month, which includes the Chuseok holiday, to allow a family gathering of up to eight people on the condition that four of them are fully vaccinated.

Currently, a social gathering of up to four people is possible in areas under Level 4 distancing after 6 p.m. if two of them are fully vaccinated.

“The government seeks to readjust the anti-virus guidelines to a reasonable level so the difficulties facing people’s lives can be relieved a little,” Kim noted.

He also stressed that the government would have enough COVID-19 vaccines in stock to achieve its goal to have 70 percent of the nation receive at least the first dose of the vaccination before Chuseok, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving, which falls on Sept. 21 this year.

On Friday, South Korea reported 1,709 new COVID-19 cases. The country’s daily coronavirus tally has remained above 1,000 for nearly two months, even as the national vaccination campaign is picking up pace.