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Ruling party calls for end to PCR tests for arrivals

Sept. 29, 2022 - 16:07 By Im Eun-byel

People are waiting to be test of COVID-19 at a testing booth in Incheon International Airport on Thursday. (Yonhap)

PCR tests for those arriving in Korea and the current indoor mask mandate could go under review following calls from the ruling People Power Party for disease control measures that “minimize inconvenience and restrictions.”

Speaking at a ruling party-government meeting on Thursday, top People Power Party officials called for ending PCR tests for overseas arrivals, and to review the negative impact that wearing face masks may have on young children.

“Currently, Korea and China are the only countries in the world that require PCR tests after entering the country. Ending the PCR test (requirement) is something that must be positively reviewed,” said Rep. Sung Il-jong, head of the People Power Party’s policy committee. Sung also called for in-person visits at long-term care facilities.

At present, Korea requires those arriving in the country, regardless of nationality, to take a PCR test for COVID-19 within 24 hours of arrival.

At the meeting, the ruling party’s floor leader claimed that the efficacy of wearing face masks has come into question, and called for the mask mandate for children to be reviewed.

“(Some) experts have opined that masks delay speaking and the emotional and social development of young children,” People Power Party floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young said, saying that many Koreans continue to wear masks outdoors as well as indoors.

Korea lifted the outdoor face mask mandate from Monday, allowing outdoor gatherings without masks regardless of number of attendants.

Joo added that face mask mandates have been lifted in many countries, and urged the participants of the meeting to determine “the line where the spread of COVID-19 can be prevented without inconveniencing people.”

In response, Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Lee Ki-il said that as the spread of the virus is subsiding, the government will seek disease control measures in a “flexible” manner.

Korea’s daily COVID-19 figures have been declining in recent days, coming in at 30,881 new cases tallied in the 24 hours of Wednesday. The figure is more than 5,000 lower than that tallied on Tuesday, and the lowest figure reported on a Thursday in 12 weeks.

At the meeting, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency commissioner Paik Kyung-ran, said that disease control measures whose efficacy has decreased will be reviewed by a panel of experts without specifying which measures will be reviewed.