Lee Ki-il, the second vice minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, speaks during a COVID-19 response meeting on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The South Korean government announced Wednesday that it would decide whether to end the country’s seven-day quarantine mandate for COVID-19 patients on Friday, which would mark another major step towards the next phase of its post-pandemic plan.
If the mandate is lifted, people who are infected with COVID-19 would no longer have to quarantine. COVID-19 patients will also be responsible for their own medical costs treating COVID-19.
“South Korea is stepping towards normal,” said Lee Ki-il, the second vice minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, during the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters meeting on Wednesday.
According to Lee, the weekly number of COVID-19 patients has decreased for the eighth consecutive week. The daily average number of COVID-19 patients last week came to 36,000, down 5.3 percent from the previous week, Lee added.
Lee, however, noted that the downward trend has also slowed down.
Lee said the government would continue to monitor how new COVID-19 variants -- including BA.4 and BA.5 -- develop in the country, to prevent a potential resurgence of COVID-19 patients.
During the meeting, Lee introduced the new government’s planned antivirus measures for the future.
Starting this month, the country’s health authorities will begin nationwide investigations of COVID-19 antibodies in citizens, according to Lee. The government will secure around 10,000 people who were previously infected with COVID-19 each quarter and have them tested to collect medical data required to evaluate the country‘s COVID-19 trend.
The government will also speed up the establishment of a committee of medical experts, who will advise the government on its decision-making process for responding to COVID-19.
A new big data platform for COVID-19 will also be launched by December, which will aggregate COVID-19 patient data from all localities.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday South Korea reported 31,352 new COVID-19 cases during the previous 24 hours, staying above 30,000 for two straight days. The total caseload came to 17,861,744.
The country added 31 deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll at 23,802. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent.
The number of critically ill patients reached 313, down from the previous day‘s 333.
By Shim Woo-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org