Hiking or strolling without a face mask will be allowed from Monday. People will be able to enjoy outdoor weddings and picnics without a mask. Masks will no longer be required in outdoor spaces in 566 days. Except for a mask mandate in indoor spaces and a seven-day quarantine for those who tested positive for COVID-19, the country will be getting back to normalcy from Monday.
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters said on Friday that it will lift the mask mandate in outdoor spaces from 12:00 a.m. on Monday. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum cited the country’s COVID-19 situation, which has been on the decline for the past six weeks, and people’s earnest desire for the recovery of daily life as a reason for the decision.
Outdoor weddings or field days with more than 50 participants mask-wearing will not be mandatory. There are exceptions, however, that people are required to wear a mask even in outdoor settings. A mask mandate will still be in effect in cases, including gatherings of more than 50 people, performances and sports events. Those who violate the mask mandate will be fined up to 100,000 won as it is now.
The government emphasizes that the decision does not mean the end of COVID-19. Jung Eun-kyeong, the commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said the decision is part of an adjustment to the scope of fines, not a declaration of a “virus-free” situation, which tells people not to wear a mask in outdoor settings.
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition committee, however, immediately protested the government’s decision. The committee’s Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo told reporters on Friday that there are no clear scientific grounds for the lifting of mask mandate, noting that the country had more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases and over 100 death tolls on Friday. Ahn went on to say that the Moon Jae-in administration is trying to take the credit for the country’s anti-COVID-19 efforts. In response, Jung said there can be difference of opinions regarding the timing and method of the lifting of mask mandates, adding the decision was not based on political considerations.
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