By Lee Minji
SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's 'no mask, no ride' policy on buses and taxis appeared to go smoothly on its first day of launch Tuesday as a continued outbreak in Seoul and the surrounding area prompted people to wear face masks.
Starting Tuesday, bus and taxi drivers can limit or refuse to offer rides to passengers who are not wearing masks as part of the government's tightened quarantine measures against the new coronavirus.
While there is no local law that provides the legal grounds to regulate passengers without masks, the government has temporarily eased a clause that bans drivers from refusing passengers.
Most passengers appeared to be following the new guideline in Seoul on the first day of the policy.
In buses that run in central Seoul and nearby residential areas, all passengers were seen wearing masks -- although the types of masks varied from the government-supplied hygiene masks to colorful cotton masks.
While some passengers at bus stops were seen with their masks lowered for easier breathing, they all put on their masks properly ahead of boarding.
"I didn't have to tell a single passenger to put on their masks," said a driver of a neighborhood bus. "Most people have already been wearing masks on buses recently."
Situations were also similar in taxis.
People who were getting in and out of cabs were all wearing masks.
"I've been making sure to wear a face mask when I'm in a cab since I don't want to worry the driver," said a 34-year-old office worker surnamed Jung who commutes by taxi every day.
"At the same time, all the taxi drivers I've met in the past two to three months were all wearing face masks," Jung said.
The tightened measures come amid a rise in transmissions linked to nightspots in the central Seoul neighborhood of Itaewon.
More than 200 cases have been reported in relation to the cluster, with its patients including a taxi driver in Incheon, west of Seoul.
As of Sunday, nine bus drivers and 12 taxi drivers had been infected by the coronavirus.
South Korea reported 19 new cases Tuesday, bringing the country's total COVID-19 infection caseload to 11,225.