South Korea to relax outdoor mask mandate as infections decrease

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South Korea will relax its mandate for outdoor face mask next week.

From Monday, people in the country will only be required to wear a mask outside when attending gatherings of more than 50 people or attending sporting and cultural events with potentially large crowds.

TAIWAN IS STILL THE LARGEST COVID OFFER TO DATE

Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said the health authorities concluded that it was safe to ease the mask mandate because the risk of COVID-19 transmissions is much lower outdoors and other countries did not see a meaningful increase in infections after easing similar restrictions.

She recommended that people continue to wear masks outdoors if they have symptoms or are in spaces where it is difficult to keep at least a three-foot distance to others.

The office of newly elected President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed concern that the move to ease the mask mandate might be premature.

Health officials said Friday that the mask mandate for indoor and public transportation will also remain in place.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to trend downward, the country has seen a daily average of about 63,000 new cases over the past week.

About 50,570 were reported within the last 24 hours, and less than 30% of the country’s 2,800 intensive care units designated for coronavirus patients are occupied.

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After an increase in March in connection with the highly transferable omicron variant, South Korea moved to remove most pandemic rules.

It includes a limit of 10 people for private social gatherings and a midnight curfew in restaurants, cafes and bars.

In addition, authorities lifted a ban on eating in cinemas, religious facilities, bus terminals and train stations on 25 April.

While South Korea has lifted the restrictions, increases elsewhere in East Asia are threatening communities.

In China, residents of Beijing undergoing mass testing are preparing for a shutdown, and most of Shanghai is still trapped.

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Taiwan is facing its biggest outbreak so far.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there have been more than 509 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including about 6.2 million deaths, reported Thursday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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