January 30, 2023 09:45
Koreans took a big step in their slow return to normal on Monday morning, when the indoor mask mandate ended more than two years after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Most other countries scrapped the mask mandate months ago.
Masks no longer have to be worn in schools, community centers, gyms and restaurants but remain mandatory in hospitals and on public transportation to protect high-risk groups on pain of a fine of up to W100,000 (US$1=W1,231).
Health authorities are also urging Koreans to keep their masks on voluntarily everywhere else.
Masks remain mandatory on buses, subway trains, taxis, airplanes or ferries but not in stations, airports or waiting areas.
They must also be worn in hospitals and pharmacies and high-risk facilities such as nursing homes and facilities for the handicapped. But community centers for the elderly are not considered at high risk.
Patients, relatives and caregivers can take their masks off in patients' rooms but should put them on if there are other visitors.
Companies and other private organizations can set their own rules for staff and guests, but violators will not be fined.
But health authorities insist that wearing masks is the best way for people to protect themselves against COVID. "Although the indoor mask mandate has been lifted, it's still important for individuals to wear masks depending on the situation," the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.
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