South Korea to lift outdoor mask mandate starting next week

People enjoy a picnic at a river park in Seoul on April 26, 2022.
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL  - South Korea will lift an outdoor face mask mandate starting next week, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced on Friday (April 29), in the country's latest step to ease Covid-19 restrictions as it learns to live with the Omicron variant.

The move would come two weeks after South Korea scrapped most of its pandemic-related precautions, including a midnight curfew on restaurants and other businesses, on April 18.

"We concluded we can no longer look away from... the inconveniences experienced by our people where they have to keep face masks on even when strolling alone or on a picnic with family," Mr Kim said during a Covid-19 response meeting.

People are still required to wear masks, however, at events with 50 attendants or more, such as at rallies, concerts and sports stadiums, he said.

The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea has been hovering below 100,000 a day after peaking at more than 620,000 a day in mid-March.

South Korea has largely managed to limit deaths and critical cases through widespread vaccination, and it has scaled back the aggressive tracing and containment efforts that made it a mitigation success story from most of the first two years of the pandemic.

Nearly 87 per cent of the country's 52 million population are fully vaccinated, with 65 per cent having also had a booster, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency data.

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