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South Korea: Most COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted on Monday

South Korea: Most COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted on Monday

South Korea’s Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced that the country will relax its COVID-19 health protocols from coming Monday, dropping all social distancing restrictions, except for the indoor mask mandate.

The announcement marks the first time most curbs have been lifted in South Korea since the global COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago.

The 10-person limit on private social gatherings and a midnight curfew at restaurants, coffee shops and other indoor businesses will come to an end on Monday, Prime Minister said.

“The Omicron [variant] has shown signs of weakening significantly after peaking in the third week of March,” Kim said today.

“As the virus situation is stabilized and capabilities of our medical system are confirmed, the government [has] decided to boldly lift social distancing measures.”

People will still be required to wear masks indoors ‘for a considerable time ahead,’ he added, but an outdoor mask mandate might be lifted in two weeks if the outbreak slows further.

The acute social distancing restrictions had put a huge strain on the country’s small businesses, and their removal is a sign that life in South Korea is returning to normal.

A 299-person cap on mass public and private events, as well as the 70% capacity limit on houses of worship will also be dropped.

Much evidence suggests the risk of transmission outdoors is extremely low, and many countries, including in North America and Europe, have said masks are not needed outdoors for vaccinated people.

The move comes after South Korea appears to have passed the crest of an Omicron-driven wave, with daily cases falling to below 100,000 last week, down from a peak of more than 620,000 in mid-March.

More than 86 percent of the South Korean population of 51 million has been fully vaccinated, with most people also receiving a booster shot.

South Korea is rolling out second boosters for vulnerable residents.

Approximately 20,000 people in South Korea have died from the COVID-19 virus – a 0.13% death rate, which is one of the world’s lowest.

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