Casinos in and around the South Korean capital city of Seoul will remain closed for at least another two weeks after authorities announced Saturday the extension of strict social distancing measures until 17 January.
The measures will see Level 2.5 distancing, the second highest of Korea’s five tiers, maintained for the greater Seoul region and Level 2 for the remainder of the country, meaning little change for operators in the foreseeable future.
The ban impacts the majority of casino and tourism operators across the country, including South Korea’s leading foreigner-only casino operator Paradise Co Ltd which shut down operations at its Seoul casino, Paradise Walkerhill, on 15 December, and Grand Korea Leisure which closed its casinos at Gangnam COEX, Gangbuk Millenium Seoul Hilton and Busan Lotte Hotel in early December.
Kangwon Land, the only South Korean casino at which locals are allowed to gamble, suspended casino operations for the third time this year on 8 December when its alert level was raised to Level 2. It was also forced to close its ski resort from 24 December after the government mandated the suspension of all tourist operations until 3 January to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 during the year-end holidays. In an announcement posted on its website, Kangwon Land said its ski resort would reopen from today with all 1,589 ski resort employees having returned negative tests. Operations at the Grand Hotel were suspended on 30 December.
There has, however, been an easing of restrictions in Jeju despite the government maintaining Level 2 on the holiday island. According to a local government announcement on Sunday, gatherings of more than five people remain banned but tourist facilities previously required to close can now operate at up to 30% capacity. Hotels can also operate half of their total room inventory.
Only around half of Jeju’s eight casinos suspended operations entirely last month, as per the Bank of Korea’s most recent Regional Economic Report, with Paradise Co’s Paradise Casino Jeju Grand among those to remain open throughout December.
Paradise also maintained operations at its integrated resort, Paradise City, in Incheon despite confirming that patients who later tested positive to COVID-19 had stayed at the property on 13 and 14 December. In a notice, Paradise City said it had “strictly adhered to the quarantine guidelines, so there won’t be any issues in relation to using our hotel and resort facilities by our customers as we’ve conducted additional specialized quarantine measures by closely cooperating with the disease prevention authorities for the safety of our customers and employees and the prevention of an infection.”
COVID-19 cases in South Korea fell for a second straight day on Sunday to 657, down from 824 a day earlier and over 1,000 for each of the previous seven days – although local media is reporting that reduced testing rates had contributed to the improved numbers.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA), average daily infections have fallen from 1,017 between 20 and 26 December to 931.9 over the past seven days.