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South Korea pushes back planned lifting of COVID-19 isolation order

Timeline set by Moon admin delayed

Health care worker at a testing center in Jung-gu, central Seoul, prepares for nasal swab tests on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Health care worker at a testing center in Jung-gu, central Seoul, prepares for nasal swab tests on Thursday. (Yonhap)

South Korea said Friday the seven-day isolation requirement for people with COVID-19 will remain in place for the next four weeks, until June 20.

Expiring on Sunday is the four-week “probation period” for downgrading COVID-19’s threat status. Last month, the Moon Jae-in administration changed the classification of COVID-19 so that it would no longer be considered an infectious disease with the “highest level of public health hazard.”

The downgrade relieves people confirmed with COVID-19 of the responsibility to self-isolate. But it also means the end of government coverage of COVID-19 medical costs for those in isolation.

In an announcement Friday, health officials said while the omicron wave had stabilized, the discovery of potentially immune-evading, highly transmissible subvariants of omicron continued to pose a threat.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said in its weekly report updated Tuesday that at least one case of BA.4 and two cases of BA.5 -- two omicron subvariants being monitored by the World Health Organization -- have been detected.

The BA.4 patient had recently traveled from South Africa. One of the two BA.5 patients had traveled from Turkey. The other was a resident in Incheon with no recent travel history, indicating a possible community transmission.

From May 13 to 18, Korea logged 195,329 cases and 41 deaths per day on average, down from 256,685 cases and 56 deaths seen a week ago. The cumulative counts of total cases and deaths stand at 17,914,957 and 23,885, respectively, putting the case fatality rate at 0.13 percent.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)
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