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By Joo Kyung-don
SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- The government decided to raise the private gathering size limit to six while keeping a 9 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes for the next three weeks, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Friday.
The decision came as the number of daily COVID-19 cases has been around 4,000 in recent days with the government's robust booster shot campaign and tightened antivirus curbs after reaching as high as over 7,000 last month.
However, health authorities are still keeping their guard up due to the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19, with concerns over a possible uptick around the Lunar New Year holiday period beginning later this month.
"The omicron variant is spreading quickly especially from last week and is on the verge of becoming the dominant variant as it accounted for 20 percent of domestic cases two days ago," Kim said during a COVID-19 response meeting. "I request people to restrain from their hometown visits and meetings with relatives and families during the Lunar New Year holiday period."
The new distancing rules will be in place from Monday through Feb. 6.
As the tightened distancing rules have been extended again, Kim said the government will draw up a supplementary budget to help small merchants and self-employed people.
"We will swiftly prepare the extra budget plan and submit it to the National Assembly before the Lunar New Year holiday," he said. "I ask the National Assembly to review and handle it quickly considering small merchants and self-employed people's desperate situation."