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(LEAD) S. Korea unlikely to drastically tighten virus curbs despite surging infections: official

19:14 December 02, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS gov't decision to maintain 'travel bubble' pacts in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is unlikely to reimpose tighter social distancing rules despite surging COVID-19 infections, as the government is set to announce new measures to help tame the latest wave of infections, a senior presidential official said Thursday.

The new measures will be announced Friday as the nation is battling to contain virus infections, with daily cases standing at a record high of more than 5,200 earlier in the day.

"Rather than a drastic tightening of distancing rules, (the government) will announce measures on how to fine-tune (current measures)," Park Soo-hyun, senior presidential secretary for communication, told a KBS YouTube channel.

Park's remarks were somewhat in contrast to his own remarks Wednesday, when he told another YouTube channel the government could make "big adjustments" to its containment measures if the omicron variant spreads.

If the government reimposes stricter distancing rules and limits private gatherings, it will have a negative impact on businesses of self-employed people, Park said.

Park said containment measures will be applied "flexibly," depending on the situation of the omicron variant and the pace of COVID-19 infections.

On Wednesday, health authorities detected the omicron in five people, including a fully vaccinated couple who had visited Nigeria from Nov. 14-23.

South Korea started to ease social distancing measures in November following its initiation of its "living with COVID-19" scheme aimed at helping people's gradual return to normalcy.

Health officials in protective suits work at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Dec. 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, the government on Thursday announced its decision to continue to exempt entrants from Singapore and Saipan from the upcoming mandatory quarantine in accordance with the "travel bubble" pacts.

All international arrivals will be required to undergo mandatory quarantine for 10 days for the next two weeks starting Friday, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, in a move to block the inflow of the new virus strain.

But those from the two countries will be exempted, as the government decided to keep the quarantine-free travel partnerships in place. South Korea inked the deals with Saipan in June and Singapore in October, respectively.

"Rather than suspending the travel bubble pacts, we are considering options of strengthening preventive measures, such as conducting more COVID-19 tests," a land ministry official said.



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