S. Koreans return to work, crowd malls, parks as virus curbs ease
SEOUL: South Koreans are returning to work and crowding shopping malls, parks, golf courses and some restaurants as the country relaxes social distancing rules amid a continued downward trend in coronavirus cases.
A growing list of companies including Naver, which operates South Korea's largest web portal, has ended or eased their work-from-home policy in recent weeks, though many continue to apply flexible working hours and limit travel and face-to-face meetings.
Parks, mountains and golf courses brimmed with visitors over the weekend, while malls and restaurants were slowly returning to normal. Schools, however, are still closed.
South Korea's ongoing recovery from the first major coronavirus outbreak outside China paints a stark contrast to many other countries where metropolises remain sealed off and sweeping stay-at-home orders are in place.
"I am a member of a community football club and we went out to play on Saturday for the first time in two months," said Mr Kim Tae-hyung, a 31-year-old power plant engineer living in Seoul. "We were wearing masks while we played, still worried about the coronavirus, but the weather was nice and I felt so refreshed."
South Korea extended its social distancing policy for another 16 days on Sunday but offered some relief for religious and sports facilities previously subjected to strict restrictions.
The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 13 new cases yesterday, a day after posting just eight - the first single-digit daily rise since the Feb 28 peak of 909. The death toll stands at 236.
New Zealand, too, will ease a nationwide lockdown next week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday.
The announcement means businesses deemed safe can reopen, along with some schools, while limits on local travel are also relaxed and gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed for events such as weddings or funerals. New Zealand has 1,100 known cases, including 12 deaths.- REUTERS, AFP