Seoul lifts almost all Covid-19 restrictions

2023.05.11 14:48:02 | 2023.05.12 10:13:21

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announces during a Covid-19 response meeting on May 11. [Photo by Lee Seung-hwan]이미지 확대

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announces during a Covid-19 response meeting on May 11. [Photo by Lee Seung-hwan]

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has announced the end of almost all Covid-19 restrictions, including mandatory isolation.

Yoon said during a Covid-19 response meeting on Thursday that the seven-day mandatory isolation period for Covid-19 patients will now be recommended five days. The indoor mask mandate will be lifted everywhere except for hospitals and the national crisis level for Covid-19 will be lowered to “alert” from “serious.” These measures were taken after the World Health Organization declared an end to the pandemic as a global health emergency.

The easing of quarantine measures announced by the government on Thursday was a de facto declaration of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it lifted most of the remaining quarantine measures.

The first case of Covid-19 was reported in South Korea on Jan. 20, 2020. After nearly three years and four months of highly restrictive quarantine and social distancing measures, the country has reached the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country introduced social distancing rules on Feb. 29, 2020 and later extended the measures to facilities with large crowds.

In February 2021, Covid-19 vaccinations began for healthcare professionals, and while the virus continued to spread that summer, the country took efforts to regain normalcy through a gradual easing of virus restrictions under the living with Covid-19 scheme in November 2021. But the resurgence of the pandemic was halted on Dec. 1 with the first confirmed case of the omicron variant.

The rapid spread of the omicron variant led to a peak of 620,000 cases per day on March 17, 2022, and 469 deaths per day on March 24. But the Omicron surge paradoxically led to more easing of quarantine controls.

In late March 2022, quarantine was waived for fully vaccinated visitors entering Korea and social distancing was lifted in April.

However, the latest easing of restrictions does not mean the end of Covid-19.

The country is still seeing more than 100,000 new cases a week. As of May 10, 239 people had lost their lives to the pandemic in the past month alone.

Experts emphasized the need to prepare for new infectious diseases while paying attention to the care of vulnerable populations.

By Pulse

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