(LEAD) South Korea delays plan to reduce coronavirus restrictions due to recent increase in COVID-19 cases


(ATTN: UPDATES with latest figures in paras 7-8)

SEOUL, Aug. 7 (Yonhap) — South Korea announced on Monday that it will postpone its plan to ease all forms of antivirus restrictions and return to pre-pandemic normalcy due to a recent surge in COVID-19 infections.

“We were going to announce plans to lower the disease level of COVID-19 to Class 4 and lift all mask mandates at hospitals on Wednesday, but the schedule was put on hold,” an official from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

“We need to strengthen monitoring as the number of new daily infections has risen for six straight weeks,” he said. “We will come up with new schedules after reviewing the epidemic and disease control situations and collecting advice from experts.”

A medical worker takes a sample from a citizen at a makeshift COVID-19 testing station in Seoul on Aug. 7, 2023. (Yonhap)

The South Korean government had planned to downgrade the infectious disease level of COVID-19 to the lowest level of Class 4 from the current Class 2, the second-highest level, as part of its efforts to implement a full transition to a normal state for the medical system.

Class 4 diseases, which include influenza and hand, foot and mouth disease, require specimen-based surveillance, while the authorities have to isolate patients infected by Class 2 diseases like tuberculosis, the measles and cholera.

With the adjustment, the remaining mask mandate at general hospitals and other high-risk facilities would be lifted, and the government would stop monitoring all COVID-19 patients.

South Korea reported a daily average of 50,388 new infections for the week of Aug. 1-7, up 10.7 percent from the previous week, the sixth week in a row the number has gone up.

Daily infections jumped to over 60,000 on Wednesday, surpassing the threshold for the first time in about seven months.

The KDCA said the number of new infections has been on a steady rise since the fourth week of June and expected the daily figure to reach 76,000 in mid-August.


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