South Korean Olympic table tennis team player Lee Sang-su receives the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at the National Medical Center in Seoul on April 29, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

SEOUL — South Korea decided Friday to extend its tightened quarantine measures for three more weeks amid lingering worry about small cluster infections of COVID-19 in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Under the country’s five-tier social-distancing guidelines, the third-highest Level 2 will be kept in place till May 23 in the capital Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province, with the Level 1.5 to be placed in other areas, according to the health authorities.

The ban on any gathering of five or more people will be imposed for three more weeks across the country.

Hong Nam-ki, deputy prime minister for economic affairs who serves as the acting prime minister, told a meeting to tackle the pandemic that it is not the right time to lower guard against the pandemic amid the still high number of confirmed cases.

Hong said there is a possibility for the infection risk to be heightened in May when three holidays, such as Children’s Day, come, vowing to control the virus spread within the next three weeks.

Local governments will be allowed to adjust details on quarantine measures according to the severity of infections.

Under the Level 2, the operation of entertainment facilities such as nightclubs is prohibited, but local governments can let the facilities run until 10:00 p.m. local time in accordance with the observance of sanitary measures.

The operation of multi-use facilities, such as restaurants, cafes, indoor sports facilities and karaoke rooms, are limited to 10:00 pm in the greater Seoul area under the Level 2 rules, but the business hours can be shortened if the virus spread worsens further.

No restriction will be levied nationwide on the business hours of other multi-use facilities, including movie theaters, internet cafes, private cram schools, study rooms, amusement parks, beauty shops and discount outlets.

In the latest tally, South Korea reported 661 more cases of COVID-19 for the past 24 hours, raising the total number of infections to 122,007. The daily caseload stayed below 700 for two days.