South Korea launches panel to debate living with COVID-19
South Korea established a panel on Wednesday to debate a strategy on how to live with COVID-19 in the long-term, as the country seeks to phase out coronavirus restrictions.
According to the health ministry, the government aims to relax COVID-19 restrictions for citizens who can prove they have been fully vaccinated, while encouraging asymptomatic and patients aged below 70 to recover at home.
The government will also focus on the number of hospitalisations and deaths rather than new daily infections, and will consider not publishing the latter on a daily basis.
Prime Minister, Kim Boo-kyum said, “We will turn COVID-19 into a controlled infectious disease and no longer a fear of the unknown, and return a complete routine to the citizens.
“Mandatory mask-wearing would not be immediately scrapped under the new policy.”
South Korea never imposed a full lockdown but has been under its tightest social distancing curbs
These include limited operating hours for restaurants, cafes, saunas and indoor gyms which have hit the self-employed and small businesses particularly hard and a cap on gatherings of more than two people in and around Seoul.
The new strategy comes as vaccination, initially bogged down by a supply shortage, has picked up pace.
The country has given at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to 78.1% of its population, while 60.7% are fully vaccinated.
South Korea has kept hospitalisation and deaths at a fairly low rate. It had 359 severe cases and a mortality rate 0.78% as of Tuesday.
The country reported 1,584 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. It has recorded a total of 335,742 infections and 2,605 deaths.