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Ending COVID-19 isolation may have to wait until after winter, says minister

By Kim Arin

Published : Dec. 20, 2022 - 14:54

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In this photograph taken on Sunday, a sign at a mall in Seoul asks visitors to keep their face masks on. (Yonhap) In this photograph taken on Sunday, a sign at a mall in Seoul asks visitors to keep their face masks on. (Yonhap)

South Korea may need to put off reviewing COVID-19 isolation rules until after the winter.

Minister of Health and Welfare Cho Kyu-hong told a press conference on Monday that the country will be ready for a discussion on whether to keep the remaining COVID-19 rules once winter passes and the outbreak situation across the country stabilizes.

The two COVID-19 rules that remain in place here are seven-day isolation for patients from the day of a positive test and an indoor mask mandate.

“There is public demand for ending the indoor mask rule, and it will be discussed although it’s hard to say at this point exactly when that might be,” he said, adding it would have to be after winter. “If it’s deemed to be necessary, we may review the isolation requirement for patients as well.”

Ending masking will likely proceed in phases, from places at low risk to high risk. Previously the ministry has said that public transit would be among the last holdouts to require masking.

Cho added that any relaxation might need to be preceded by a downgrade in COVID-19’s threat status as an infectious disease. COVID-19 is currently classified on the same level of threat as diseases like measles and hepatitis A.

In the 24 hours of Monday, South Korea reported 87,559 new infections — the largest one-day count in about three months. Fifty-six people died the same day.