People lounge at a park along the Han River in Seoul, Sunday. (Yonhap)
The South Korean government expects that the country will be able to return to normal soon, given the recent downward trend in the pandemic.
“(The country) is one step closer toward a return to normal,” said Lee Seung-woo, vice minister for disaster and safety management, during the Central Disaster Management Headquarters meeting Wednesday.
According to Lee, the COVID-19 pandemic here has settled down, with the country’s health care capacity sufficient to handle daily infections and hospitalizations.
South Korea’s weekly COVID-19 infections continued to drop for a sixth consecutive week, Lee also noted.
The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases last week reached 88,265, down 40.8 percent, when compared to a week prior.
Health authorities also expect the daily cases to drop to the 40,000s by the end of May.
On Tuesday, the country’s daily COVID-19 infections came to 76,787, down 3,574 from the previous day’s 80,361, according to government data.
The number of critically ill patients also dropped to 546, down 67 from a day earlier. It was the first time in almost nine weeks that the figure dropped to the 500s.
COVID-19 deaths reported during the 24 hours of Tuesday, however, increased to 141, from the previous day’s 82. The death toll from COVID-19 came to 22,466.
In line with the weakening pandemic, the government is to focus on implementing measures for the mild phase of the pandemic in the future.
Small-business owners will be given an extra three months to pay income taxes, and also be eligible to receive other tax benefits, to help alleviate their suffering from the economic fallout, according to Lee.
The government will also increase cooperation with the country’s medical community so that all medical systems can return to normal operations at the end of May.
The country’s health authorities will initiate medical research to study post-COVID-19 conditions, while introducing health care programs for those who suffer from long-term effects of the coronavirus, Lee added.
Whether the outdoor mask mandate will be lifted this week, however, is still uncertain at this moment as President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition team expressed worries over moving too soon.
The transition team said Yoon’s administration will decide whether it will lift the outdoor mask mandate or not within 30 days after Yoon’s inauguration on May 10.