South Korean Businesses Oppose Reimposition of COVID-19 Restrictions

Several South Korean small business owners demonstrated in Seoul on Wednesday, urging the government to withdraw the toughened coronavirus restrictions that would crush their businesses already struggling amid the prolonged pandemic.

Some 300 protesters gathered near Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul.

“All small merchants are dying! Scrap the business restrictions!,”  the protesters chanted

The reinstated restrictions included a ban on private gatherings of five or more people, a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants, coffee shops, and karaoke venues, and required proof of vaccination for entry to restaurants and other businesses.

The said restrictions would remain in effect until January 2, as infections surged out of control in the wake of the “living with COVID-19” scheme that began last month.

Last week, the government announced it would pay 1 million won (US$839) each to small businesses affected by the strengthened rule, but small business owners said the amount was not enough to offset their losses.

“Fines and business closure orders are becoming overburdensome. The government should answer how vaccine pass violation fines are being imposed when we are barely managing to keep our businesses alive,” Oh Se-hee, head of the Korean Federation of Micro Enterprise, said.

On Wednesday, health authorities reported 7,456 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, with a record of 1,063 patients in serious or critical condition.

South Korea has confirmed 234 cases of the new omicron variant so far.

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