May 12, 2023 10:39
Korea will lift remaining coronavirus restrictions on June 1 after the government declared the emergency over on Thursday.
In a meeting chaired over by President Yoon Suk-yeol, the government decided to end most remaining restrictions and lower the COVID alert level from "serious" to "cautious" from June 1 now the fatality rate has fallen and the World Health Organization has declared an end to the global health emergency.
Mandatory seven-day self-isolation for infected people will be lifted and instead the government recommends that they isolate voluntarily for five days.
The mask mandate will remain in place only in large hospitals with more than 30 beds and medical facilities for high-risk groups like nursing homes.
Mandatory weekly testing for medical staff in such facilities will also be scrapped in favor of testing when staff have symptoms or have attended large gatherings. A recommendation for foreign travelers to have a PCR test three days after arrival will also be dropped.
"The COVID risk has dropped significantly," a government official said. "About seven people have died from COVID on a daily average over the past four weeks, leaving the death rate at a mere 0.06 percent."
"Despite a slow uptick in new infections, we are capable of controlling it given the response system we have in place and high immunity levels," the official added.
But treatment, testing and vaccination will remain free for the time being.
Some experts have warned it is too early for Korea to let its guard down since more than 100,000 new cases are still reported every week here.
Ji Young-mi, the chief of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said, "Although we've overcome the national health crisis, we'll remain on alert to fulfill our responsibility to protect people's health."
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