South Korea will no longer require people to show proof of vaccination or test negative to enter indoor spaces, starting Tuesday (1/3). This policy was taken following the surge in omicron cases which increased the number of hospitalizations and deaths so that it was very burdensome for hospitals.
The Ministry of Health’s announcement on Monday (28/2) came as the country posted a new record of deaths in one day from COVID-19 with 114, breaking the previous record high of 112, set on Saturday (26/2).
More than 710 COVID-19 patients are in critical or serious condition, up from 200-300 in mid-February, while nearly half of the country’s designated intensive care units for COVID-19 have been occupied.
Park Hyang, a senior Ministry of Health official, said the lifting of the so-called anti-epidemic pass this will ease the work of more health workers. They, he said, could now be deployed to help monitor the nearly 800,000 virus patients with mild or moderate symptoms who have been asked to self-isolate at home to save hospital space.
About 250,000 people per day in the past week underwent free rapid antigen testing at public health offices and testing stations. According to the ministry, about half of them came for evidence of negative tests over the past 24 hours.
Since December, adults are required to show their vaccination status via a mobile phone app or show proof of a negative test to enter potentially crowded spaces such as restaurants, coffee shops, gymand a karaoke place.
But the policy has been challenged by local court rulings in cities such as Daegu, where a district judge last week ruled it was excessive for people in their 50s and younger. He said one reason was because the government had shifted the focus of its campaign to high-risk groups, including people in their 60s or older and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Park said authorities have no plans to reimpose the provisions anti-epidemic pass This is unless the pandemic undergoes other major changes, such as the emergence of a new coronavirus variant. [ab/uh]