The South Korean government will no longer require wearing face masks indoors effective on January 30 this year.
After seeing a relaxation in the infection curve, Prime Minister Han Duk-soo announced the latest rule at a government meeting after three years of introducing the requirement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the mandate laid exceptions on high-risk places such as hospitals, pharmacies, and public transportation.
“COVID-19 cases have been on the decline for three weeks in a row, and the situation has remained stable in Korea,” he said after surpassing the anticipation of the country's another wave of infections.
Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency commissioner Jee Young-mee reminded the public that while the ban may be lifted, it is still "highly recommended" to wear face masks at all places.
“If you’ve come into a close contact with a COVID-19 patient or someone with COVID-19-like symptoms, you should be careful and wear mask around others. Whenever you are with someone at high risk of severe COVID-19, you should be wearing a mask.” she said in a press briefing.
The ban was mandated following the Seollal holiday weekend, the second major national holiday, which will start on Saturday, January 21, and until Tuesday of the week to prevent a post-holiday surge.
For the past week, the health authorities have reported 32,866 cases and 41 deaths per day on average adding up to the national record of 29,955,366 cases and 33,134 deaths.
The government once lifted the requirement of RT-PCR tests for inbound and local travelers in October 2022.
Written by: Harold Lemon Tubiano
Lemon is a Broadcasting intern at PS Media Enterprise and a fourth-year BA Broadcasting student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines—Manila.