The Korean government announced on Friday that it would lift the mask mandate for most indoor spaces from January 30. After two years and three months, the government is lifting the mask mandate, which was implemented in October 2020 to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus that started in China at the end of 2019. However, masks will still be required on public transportation and in medical facilities such as hospitals that are vulnerable to infection.
"The adjustments on the mandatory indoor mask mandate will be in effect from Jan. 30, after the Lunar New Year holiday, considering increased family gatherings during the holiday season and mass migration across the nation," Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said. "External risk factors were also judged to be sufficiently manageable.” Korea’s mask mandate started on October 13, 2020. The outdoor mask mandate was lifted completely in September last year.
Initially, ‘the resurgence of COVID-19 from China’ was considered a key deciding factor in whether or not to lift the indoor mask mandate. In early January, 31.5% of short-term Chinese visitors tested positive as of Jan. 4, significantly increasing tensions. However, concerns about the virus being spread from China have decreased with the recent stabilization of the trend.
Based on the announcement on Friday, the indoor mask mandate will be adjusted to a recommendation, which means people don’t have to pay 100,000 won in fines when they don’t wear a mask indoors. The policy will, however, remain in place at some places that are visited by people who are vulnerable to Covid-19, such as hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and some welfare facilities (care hospitals, long-term care institutions, mental health promotion facilities, and welfare facilities for the disabled). Public transportation such as buses, trains, passenger ships, airplanes, and taxis, frequently used by many unspecified people, will also remain places to wear masks mandatorily.