Social Distancing in Korea

(Updated: 2020-07-03)

South Korea has implemented a three-level social distancing scheme starting 28th June, as it continues to report a rebound in daily new coronavirus cases.

In order to better manage the rising number of cluster infections, particularly in the densely populated capital region, the KCDC said the government had adopted three levels of social distancing and countermeasures, depending on the severity of the outbreak.

In general terms, the first level applies to a small-scale outbreak, the second to community transmission, and the third to a large-scale outbreak. Factors to be reflected in decisions on whether to change levels include the average number of new community diagnoses within a two-week period, the scale of cluster infections, the percentage of cases involving unknown transmission routes, and the availability of hospital beds for patients with severe symptoms.
 
At level 1: allows ordinary economics, social activity
According to a June 28 statement from the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters (CDSCHQ), the current stage is at Level 1. While the 10% rate of diagnoses with unclear transmission routes over the two-week period from June 14 to 27 exceeds the 5% threshold for Level 1 and the percentage of “management within the disease control network” falls below 80%, the 28.9 average of newly diagnosed community cases per day corresponds to Level 1 (under 50). Under Level 1, ordinary social and economic activities are allowed to proceed, but mandatory mask-wearing and electronic visitor logs are required for 11 categories of high-risk businesses, such as bars and large after-school academies.

Visitors will also be allowed on a limited basis to attend sporting events, which have been held thus far without spectators. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the same day that it would be “allowing a limited number of spectators at baseball, soccer, and other pro sports events,” adding that it “plans to finalize details regarding the number of spectators allowed and event dates based on discussions with disease control authorities.
 
Level 2: no indoor gatherings of more than 50 or outdoor gatherings of more than 100
If the average number of newly diagnosed community cases increases to 50-100 per day under the current conditions, this could lead to a Level 2 situation. Under Level 2, the number of students attending in-person classes at schools and kindergartens -- which were previously conducted in tandem with online classes -- would be reduced. The government would also invoke an administrative order barring indoor events with 50 or more people and outdoor events with 100 or more people. The government may also recommend the postponement or cancellation of public and private events such as civil service examinations, licensing examinations, and local festivals except when absolutely necessary. The same standard would also apply to weddings and funerals. While a limited number of spectators were permitted for sporting events under Level 1, spectator-free events would return under Level 2. The 11 categories of high-risk facilities would be required to suspend all operations, including bars, karaoke rooms, and large after-school academies. Moderate-risk facilities such as religious establishments, movie theaters, wedding halls, and public baths would be required to adhere to disease prevention rules.

LEvel 3: No gatherings of more than 10
Level 3 corresponds to a large-scale outbreak situation with 100-200 new diagnoses per day or the number of new diagnoses doubling from the previous day twice or more in one week. Under Level 3, all schools and kindergartens would be required to implement online classes or shut down completely. All gatherings of 10 or more people would be prohibited apart from attendance of family funerals or essential public and business activities. Both high-risk facilities and the 11 categories of moderate-risk facilities would have to suspend operations. Restaurants, shopping malls, and all other crowded facilities would have to close at 9 pm, although exceptions would be granted for hospitals, pharmacies, stores selling essential items, gas stations, funeral parlors, essential industrial facilities, and communal residences.

Recently, a number of cluster infections have been associated with religious establishments, which would be required to suspend operations as moderate-risk facilities under a Level 3 situation. In the case of public institutions, all but essential workers would be required to work from home.
 
The South Korean government explained that the decision on whether to transition from Level 2 to Level 3 would be based not only on the different indicators stated, but also on the opinions of experts and the public.
 
  Level 1 Level 2 Level 3

Daily number

of confirmed case

Less than 50 people 50~Less than 100 people

100~200 people or more,

or 
In case when the number of confirmed cases doubles or more in the same week

Gathering and event
(In any case, it can be held under the conditions of compliance with the quarantine rules.)
Allowable Only allowable
less than 50 people indoor,
less than 100 outdoor 
Only allowable
less than 10 people indoor/outdoor
Sporting event Limit the number of spectators
(number will vary depending on the type and characteristics of the event)
Will be played
without spectators
Suspended

Public

multi-purpose facility

Operation will be allowed.
If necessary, operations may be suspended or restricted.
Operation suspended Operation suspended

Non-public

multi-purpose facility

Operation will be allowed.
Facilities with a high risk of infection will be ordered to be refrained from operating.

Operation of Facilities
with a high risk of infection will be suspended.

Rest of the facilities will be enforced to comply with the quarantine rules.

Operation of Facilities
with a high risk of infection will be suspended.

Rest of the facilities will be enforced to comply with the quarantine rules.

School

Kindergarten

Daycare center

Face-to face classes at school
and/or online classes
Face-to-face classes at school,
however will reduce the number of students and rest of the students will have online classes.
Online classes or closure

Public organization

Companies

Minimize the density of work place
by providing one-third of all employees with flex/tele- working.
By providing half of all employees
  with flex/tele-working, minimize number of employees at work.
Other than the required number of employees for operating,
the rest will work from home.