S.Korea likely to lift outdoor mask mandate next week

Seoul, April 28 (IANS) The South Korean government is likely to lift the outdoor mask mandate next week, officials here said on Thursday.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum is expected to announce the decision during a Covid-19 response meeting on Friday as the country continues to see a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, reports Yonhap News Agency.

“Even after restrictions on private gatherings and business hours have been fully lifted, the downward trend continues in Covid-19 cases, while critical and fatality rates are stable,” a government official said.

“Experts think that lifting the mask wearing rule outdoors, where the risk of transmission is lower than indoors, is possible.”

Earlier this week, Ahn Cheol-soo, the chief of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition team, said the incoming government will determine whether to lift the outdoor mask mandate in late May.

Ahn’s remark is seen as a suggestion for the current government to keep the mask mandate till late next month, but health officials reportedly decided there is no reason to delay lifting the mandate considering the recent virus trend.

South Korea recently got rid of all Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, except the mask mandate, as the pandemic entered a more manageable stage.

Covid-19 infections have dipped to under 100,000 daily cases for days after peaking at over 620,000 in mid-March amid a surge driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.