Masks for outdoor events may be unnecessary soon

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Masks for outdoor events may be unnecessary soon

A person holds a face mask in Seoul on Thursday. The government is set to end the outdoor mask mandate as early as this week. [YONHAP]

A person holds a face mask in Seoul on Thursday. The government is set to end the outdoor mask mandate as early as this week. [YONHAP]

 
Korea may end its mask mandate for outdoor events as early as this week.
 
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), the National Infectious Diseases Consulting Committee, which is an advisory committee to the government on infectious diseases, recommended the termination of the outdoor mask mandate in a meeting Wednesday.
 
The complete lifting of outdoor mask requirements is likely to be announced as early as Friday.
 
Wearing face masks at outdoor events is expected to become “advised,” and people who choose not to will not be fined.
 
The outdoor face mask mandate was ended on May 2 except for events with 50 or more people, such as rallies, concerts and sports games in stadiums. But questions have been raised about the policy’s efficacy, as eating and drinking are allowed in, say, stadiums.
 
The indoor mask mandate is likely stay for a while due to differences in opinion among the committee members.
 
Reportedly, a consensus has been reached on the principle of lifting it, but not on other details such as when or which indoor settings. Even after it's lifted, masks may be required in facilities with a higher risk of virus transmission, such as hospitals.
 
“The National Infectious Diseases Consulting Committee all agreed on [the need for] easing the guidelines for mask-wearing,” KDCA commissioner Peck Kyong-ran said in a briefing on Thursday. “An announcement on the period and the targets will be made as soon as possible once they are finalized.”
 
New confirmed infections of Covid-19 in Korea continued to dip, reaching 33,009 on Thursday, according to the KDCA.
 
Thursday’s case count was less than half the 71,451 cases added the same day a week ago.
 
Daily average Covid cases in the past one week, from Sept. 16 to Thursday, numbered 38,805.

 
Health authorities have concluded that Korea’s sixth wave over the summer was stably managed with a lower fatality rate than previous virus waves, even without social distancing measures.
 
The sixth wave, led by the Omicron subvariant BA.5, started in early July and hit a daily peak of 180,745 cases on Aug. 17, then slowly subsided. It was the second-largest wave for Korea.
 
The KDCA said the fatality rate was 0.05 percent between July and Sept. 3 when the BA.5 subvariant was dominant, half the 0.1 percent rate during the previous wave, when the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 strains dominated between January and July.
 
"Fourth Covid shots and active use of treatments for high-risk groups and enhanced monitoring of facilities prone to virus transmission helped minimize the deterioration into critical or serious condition or death,” the KDCA said in a press release.
 
“Unless there is a new virus variant with higher transmissibility and stronger ability to evade immunity, the virus wave is likely to maintain at the current size,” it added.
 
The daily tally of new Covid infections was forecast to come down to the 20,000s in two weeks.
 
According to the latest mathematical modeling done by the National Institute for Mathematical Sciences published on Thursday, a research team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) project new cases to decrease from 41,286 on Sept. 21 to 20,962 on Oct. 5.
 
 

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun1@joongang.co.kr]
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