S.Korea extends coronavirus distancing curbs as daily case count hits month high

People wearing masks take a walk amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at a Hanriver Park in Seoul, South Korea, February 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL, March 26 (Reuters) - South Korea said on Friday it will extend its coronavirus distancing rules, which include an outside dining curfew and ban on gatherings of five or more people, for two weeks as its daily new cases hit a one-month high.

The government decides whether to ease or tighten distancing curbs every two weeks, and the current rules have been in place since mid-February.

"The government will maintain the current distancing level and a ban on gatherings of five people or more for two weeks," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting.

Under the rules, restaurants and cafes must close by 10 p.m. and gatherings of more than four people are restricted, with a few exceptions.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 494 new cases as of Thursday midnight, the highest number in 35 days, amid a steady stream of cluster infections at workplaces, public facilities and religious gatherings.

Authorities have expressed concerns over increasing movement of people amid warm spring weather and complaints by businesses about the curfew.

"Despite growing fatigue over distancing, it is concerning that the tension is loosening," Chung said.

South Korea's total infections stood at 100,770, with 1,716 deaths, KDCA data showed.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Karishma Singh

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