July 05, 2021 09:57
Wearing masks will remain mandatory even for fully vaccinated people in the greater Seoul area as the lifting of lockdown has been kicked into the long grass. The reversal comes as daily infections rose above 700 again and officials panic about coronavirus variants.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Sunday masks will be mandatory outdoors even for vaccinated people "until the situation improves." Violators face fines of up to W100,000 (US$1=W1,135).
The government earlier promised that vaccinated people can remove their masks outdoors in order to persuade more people to get jabbed.
Drinking will also be prohibited outdoors after 10 p.m. in the capital region. The government will inspect around 4,000 establishments that could become clusters of infection. "If we detect violations of quarantine rules, administrative orders will ensue under a zero-tolerance policy," a government spokesperson warned.
The number of Delta variant cases is estimated to have risen to 650 in Korea due to a group infection traced to foreign English teachers who socialized in a pub in Seoul's Hongik University area.
Amid increasing fears of variant carriers arriving from abroad, the government is forcing even vaccinated visitors from India, Indonesia, the Philippines and five other countries to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.
The World Health Organization said inoculations must be completed quickly to prevent the spread of the variant, but they are progressing at a snail's pace due to a shortage of vaccines.
In Korea, vaccination is still limited to over-60s and some frontline workers until July 26, when the turn of over-50s comes. People in their 40s have no hope of getting inoculated until August because the government failed to secure enough vaccines.
The daily tally of new infections stood at 711 as of Monday morning.
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