By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea decided to strengthen social distancing rules for the greater Seoul area amid spikes in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Tuesday.
Tighter curbs would ban public gatherings of 100 people or more, limit religious services and audiences at sporting events to 30% capacity, and require high-risk facilities including clubs and karaoke bars to broaden distance among guests.
South Korea has been one of the world's coronavirus mitigation success stories after tackling the first major COVID-19 epidemic outside China with aggressive tracing and testing, but continues to battle persistent rises in infections.
The decision came after the daily tally hovered above 200 for the third consecutive day on Monday, the highest since early September, with a series of cluster outbreaks emerging from offices, medical facilities and small gatherings in the densely populated greater Seoul area.
"Our anti-coronavirus efforts are facing a crisis, and the situation is particularly serious in the Seoul metropolitan area," Chung told a meeting, noting around half of the country's 52 million population live in the region.
"Today's decision would cause greater inconvenience in our daily lives ... but we all know from our experiences that there would be an even bigger crisis if we don't act now."
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Sandra Maler and Michael Perry)