|People drink and eat outdoors in downtown Seoul on April 23. Korea Times file|
By Kim Jae Heun
As Korea experiences a resurgence of new cases of Omicron sub-variants, the local restaurant industry is deeply concerned that the government may once again enact stricter quarantine measures.
On Thursday, the number of new daily COVID-19 infections reached 39,196, more than double what it was a week earlier.
If the government reinstates restrictions on nighttime opening hours for multi-use facilities or limitations on the size of private gatherings, restaurant and bar owners fear they will inevitably suffer losses.
“We’ve only just started to see people going out to eat and drink. But because we’re seeing a rapid increase in new cases of COVID-19 here, I fear things will go back to where they were a year ago.” , dubbed a restaurant owner. said Kim.
A bar owner named Kang said the situation is worse for small business owners today than in 2021 because over time rental and labor costs have increased and costs public services have increased.
On July 1, the government simultaneously raised electricity and gas tariffs and plans to raise them again in October. Prices for raw materials such as cooking oil and wheat have risen here partly due to the ongoing war in Ukraine which has inflated food prices around the world.
“Many small business owners are likely to go bankrupt and close their stores in the second half of this year if the current wave of COVID-19 and economic uncertainties continue. The government is taking various measures to stabilize the cost of living here , but they are apparently not effective,” Kang said.
The daily number of new COVID-19 infections reached 40,266 on Wednesday after rising since late June. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) predicts that the number of new daily infections will reach 150,000 by the end of this month if the current trend continues.
Previously, KDCA expected another wave of COVID-19 to occur between September and October, but due to the summer vacation season and the recent lifting of travel restrictions, the trend has come. three to four months earlier than planned.
The BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is known to have higher transmissibility than previous strains because it largely evades antibodies induced by currently available vaccines or previous infections. BA.5 is expected to become the dominant strain in Korea soon, as its percentage of total infections rose to 35 percent last week from 28.2 percent the previous week.
Adding to concerns, the country on Thursday confirmed its first case of BA.2.75, the highly mutated Omicron subvariant known as Centaurus.