South Korea Delays Easing of Virus Restrictions Due to Recent Increase in COVID-19 Cases


SEOUL, Aug. 7 (Yonhap) — South Korea has announced that its plan to ease all anti-virus restrictions and return to pre-pandemic normalcy has been put on hold due to a recent surge in COVID-19 infections.

“We had been planning to announce plans to reduce the disease level of COVID-19 to Class 4 and remove all mask mandates at hospitals on Wednesday, but the schedule was postponed,” 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 increased for six consecutive weeks,” he said. “We will come up with new schedules after evaluating the epidemic and disease control situations and taking 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 intended to reduce 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 plans to fully 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 must 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 313,900 new infections for the week of July 23-31, a 23.7 percent increase from the same period last year, with almost 45,000 people infected with the virus.

The KDCA said the number of new infections has been steadily increasing since the fourth week of June and is expected to reach 76,000 by mid-August.

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