As the country seeks to ‘live with COVID-19,’ South Korea announced on Friday that it will lift all operating-hour restrictions on restaurants and cafes and introduce its first vaccine passport for high-risk venues such as gyms, saunas, and bars.
Officials said that the first phase will begin on Monday and last for a month, with plans calling for all restrictions to be lifted by February.
The drive comes as South Korea struggles with high daily case numbers, despite the fact that it is still far behind many of the worst-affected countries in terms of serious infections and mortality.
South Korea achieved its aim of vaccinating 70 percent of its 52 million population last week, paving the path for a planned return to normalcy. It has already fully immunised approximately 72 percent of the population, with more than 79.8 percent receiving at least one dose of vaccine.
South Korea has been fighting the fourth wave of viruses since the month of July, when the government enforced severe limits on gatherings and social distancing rules.
Outdoor sporting events can accommodate up to 50 percent of spectators, and musicals and concerts can accommodate up to 100 people regardless of vaccination status. People who have been fully inoculated will be able to enjoy popcorn and soda in movie theatres.
High-risk locations, such as bars and nightclubs, indoor gyms, saunas, and karaoke bars will require confirmation of vaccination or a COVID-19 test result from within 48 hours.
South Korea has released its own vaccine app, claiming that it uses blockchain technology to preserve user privacy.
While private gatherings of up to ten people will be permitted nationwide regardless of vaccination status, restaurants and cafes will limit unvaccinated people to four per group.
Authorities have stated that they will prioritise hospitalisation and mortality rates over daily mitigation and that self-treatment will be expanded for those with only minor COVID-19 symptoms.
The Korean Medical Association (KMA) and specialists have cautioned that the changeover to the new strategy, which comes at a time when there are a lot of cases and winter is approaching, could lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
On Thursday, South Korea announced 2,124 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections to 360,536 with 2,817 deaths.