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South Korea to relax restrictions and impose vaccine passports.

New rules aimed at encouraging South Koreans to ‘live with COVID-19’ went into effect on Monday, eliminating a number of restrictions and requiring vaccine passports at high-risk locations including gyms, saunas and bars.

More than 75 percent of the country’s population has been properly vaccinated, prompting the shift in focus. The first phase of the new guidelines will run for a month, with the goal of eliminating all limitations by February.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said during the COVID-19 infra-agency conference that the journey back to the ordinary life was a path that they have never been on.

He urged people to continue wearing masks, ventilate rooms periodically and get tested if symptoms appear, stressing that there are still concerns about a return of new cases due to risk factors like unvaccinated people, future losses in immunity among the vaccinated and year-end gatherings.

South Korea has been fighting a fourth wave of infections since July, when the government implemented more strict gathering and social distancing rules.

Restaurant and café working hour curfews were relaxed and outdoor sporting events will be able to welcome spectators at a 50 percent capacity.

Regardless of vaccination status, up to 100 individuals can attend musicals or concerts, and gyms will no longer be required to regulate treadmill speeds or prohibit playing music with fast beats per minute during group activities.

Visits to high-risk venues such as bars and nightclubs, indoor gyms, saunas and karaoke bars, on the other hand, will require confirmation of immunisation or a Covid -19 test result within 48 hours.

According to Son Young-rae, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, the number of new cases could double or triple in the following weeks. The medical system was meant to handle up to 5,000 new cases every day, but if the number reached 10,000, Son added, the government would suspend the process and take emergency steps.

As of Sunday, South Korea had recorded 1,686 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 366,386, with 2,858 deaths.


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