World

S. Korea plans three-phase strategy to get back to normal by February

SEOUL: South Korea unveiled yesterday a three-phase strategy to get back to normal from the coronavirus with all limits on gatherings and distancing gone by February, after it achieved a goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of its people on the weekend.

The scheme begins next Monday and is due to run until Feb 20, by when all distancing curbs will be scrapped except for mask-wearing mandates, a government health panel said.

South Korea has been largely successful in managing the pandemic without the lockdowns and death rates seen in many other parts of the world, largely through intensive testing, tracing, distancing and masks.

In the first phase of the plan, all operating-hour curbs on restaurants, cafes and other businesses will be dropped, though nightclubs will still have to close by midnight.

Visitors to high-risk venues, such as indoor gyms, saunas and karaoke bars will have to be fully vaccinated, while private gatherings in the capital, Seoul, and surrounding areas can include up to 10 people regardless of vaccination status.

Currently, gatherings of up to eight people are allowed if a group includes four fully vaccinated people.

The authorities will focus on weekly hospitalisation and mortality rates rather than daily new cases, and people with mild symptoms will be allowed to treat themselves at home.

VACCINATED

South Korea's latest wave of infections has brought far fewer serious cases than earlier outbreaks, with many older and more vulnerable people now vaccinated.

It reported 1,190 new cases on Sunday. Hospitals are treating 322 critical cases.

South Korea was one of the first countries to record coronavirus cases after it emerged in China in late 2019. It has since had 353,089 infections and 2,773 deaths. - REUTERS

WORLD