S.Korean President announces end to nearly all Covid restrictions
Seoul, May 11 (IANS) South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday declared an end to almost all Covid-19 restrictions, including mandatory isolation, effectively placing the disease in the endemic category.
Yoon said during a Covid-19 response meeting that the seven-day mandatory isolation period for infected patients will be reduced to a recommendation of five days, reports Yonhap News Agency.
He also said the indoor mask mandate will be lifted everywhere except for hospitals with rooms for hospitalization, and the PCR test-upon-arrival recommendation will be removed.
The new measures will take effect June 1 when the national crisis level for Covid will be lowered from "serious" to "alert".
"I am pleased that our people will reclaim their everyday lives after three years and four months," Yoon said during the meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters at the presidential office.
"This was possible because of the dedication and efforts of many people," he said, thanking front-line medical staff, health industry workers and public officials.
The announcement came days after the World Health Organization declared an end to Covid as a "global health emergency".
Yoon said the government will continue to provide financial support for Covid testing and treatment for now and prepare thoroughly against future pandemics by establishing a science-based response system.
He also vowed to increase the country's vaccine development capabilities while strengthening cooperation with the international community and drawing up a detailed post-Covid policy that sees pandemic-driven societal changes being used as future growth engines.
However, new coronavirus cases in the country stood above the 20,000 mark for a third consecutive day on Thursday.
In the last 24 hours, there were 20,574 cases, including 32 imported cases, bringing the total caseload to 31,351,686, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
Thursday's tally fell from the previous day's 23,521 infections, a three-month high, but was about 400 higher than the same day last week.
The country also reported 12 Covid fatalities in the same period, raising the overall death toll to 34,583.