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S. Korea lifts all social distancing measures, except mask mandate

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum speaks during a COVID-19 response meeting Friday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum speaks during a COVID-19 response meeting Friday. (Yonhap)

South Korea will lift all COVID-19 social distancing rules, except a mask mandate, starting Monday, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during a COVID-19 response meeting Friday.

It is the first time in around two years for the government to lift all social distancing rules. South Korea first introduced social distancing measures in March 2020, when it recommended to operations be suspended at religious facilities and some businesses.

Kim said, “the government has decided to boldly lift social distancing measures after it confirmed that the pandemic situation is stabilized and that our medical system is capable of handling the situation.”

“From Monday onward, the midnight curfew on multipurpose facilities and the 10-person limit on private gatherings will no longer be applied,” Kim added.

A 299-person cap on large-scale events and rallies will be also gone, along with the 70 percent capacity cap on religious facilities, according to Kim.

Starting April 25, eating inside multipurpose facilities, such as movie theaters, gyms and religious facilities, will be allowed as well.

Kim, however, noted that “it is unavoidable to maintain the indoor mask mandate for an extended period of time.” He added that the government might lift the outdoor mask mandate possibly two weeks later, when the government announces adjusted antivirus measures.

Meanwhile, Kim shared the government’s plan to downgrade the infectious disease level of COVID-19 by one notch, from class 1 to class 2.

When the disease level is changed, patients can receive treatment at local clinics and hospitals and will no longer be required to quarantine.

The government expects the change can also help the country’s medical system phase out of the pandemic-focused operations and gradually return to pre-pandemic days.

To minimize confusion, the changes to medical system operations will be introduced in phases over a four-week period, in ways that the new administration can decide whether to completely remove the classification in the future.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)
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