Social distancing ends Monday, but mask rules will remain
All social distancing restrictions end Monday with the exception of rules related to the wearing of masks.
The lifting of the restrictions after two years comes as the number of Covid-19 cases drops dramatically.
From Sunday at midnight, groups of any size can eat together, restaurants, bars and other establishments can stay open as late as legally allowed, the 299-person cap on assemblies and protests will be ended and religious gatherings will no longer have a 70-percent capacity limit.
From April 25, visitors to movie theaters, indoor sports venues and religious facilities will be allowed to eat food at these sites.
Starting May 23, test centers will start charging for Covid-19 tests, and people catching Covid-19 will have to cover their out-of-pocket expenses for their medical treatment — previously, the government covered all expenses.
Mask rules will remain in effect for two more weeks, after which the rules will be revisited.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), masks must be worn indoors, outdoors at crowded events and when within 2 meters of another person.
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters announced Friday that Covid-19's infectious disease classification will be downgraded from Class 1 to Class 2 starting April 25. This means that those infected are no longer required to immediately report a positive test for the virus, and that those infected can go to their nearest hospital to get treated instead of having to visit designated hospitals.
The headquarters set a four-week "transition period" from April 25. The 7-day quarantine period will remain in effect for new cases until the end of that period. Quarantine obligations for those infected will be lifted around May 23, though the schedule could be adjusted if case numbers increase or new variants emerge.
The authorities are pushing ahead with the post-Omicron plan as the Covid-19 epidemic has passed its peak and the disease is becoming endemic.
"Covid-19 will not be completely eradicated, but I think it is time to carefully try to recover towards normalcy," Kwon Deok-cheol, minister of health and welfare, said at a briefing on Friday.
"While the risk has been lowered with the advent of the Omicron variant, it is highly likely that small-scale outbreaks will continue to occur. Considering this, there is a need to switch to a more routine response system for quarantine and medical response," Kwon said.
Korea recorded 16,305,752 cumulative infections and 203 Covid-19-related deaths Sunday. Of those currently infected, 893 cases are severe.
BY LIM JEONGWON [email@example.com]