A person visits a local testing facility in Seoul for a COVID-19 test. (Yonhap)
The South Korean government is expected to shorten the country’s COVID-19 quarantine mandate to five days, according to health officials on Tuesday.
A government task force has reportedly been discussing the possibility of lifting the mandatory quarantine, but some experts from the group currently see lifting the mandatory quarantine as still risky. At the moment, it is more likely that the government could shorten the quarantine time or just keep the seven-day quarantine measure for a little longer, according to the officials.
Some experts from the government task force have reportedly said that lifting of the quarantine mandate comes with risks of another COVID-19 resurgence.
Health authorities also recently took note of the potential risks. “A COVID-19 resurgence is inevitable if the quarantine mandate is lifted,” said Peck Kyong-ran, new commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Since the Yoon Suk-yeol’s administration proclaimed earlier that the government would take heed of experts’ opinions regarding antivirus measures, it is unlikely that the government would lift the quarantine mandate at least for now.
Lim Sook-young, a senior official at the KDCA, said Tuesday that “the government is reviewing all possible options.”
Lim added that nothing has been decided yet.
The government will announce its decision regarding the seven-day quarantine during a COVID-19 response meeting on Friday. According to Lim, the government will also disclose the government’s criteria for lifting the quarantine mandate -- even if the government decides not to toss the quarantine measure this week.
The government will introduce measures to compensate COVID-19 treatment costs as patients will be required to pay themselves after the government scraps the quarantine mandate.
South Korea has been considering lifting the quarantine mandate for several weeks amid the weakening pandemic.
In April this year, South Korea downgraded the infectious disease level for COVID-19, with an interim period of four weeks. The government then planned to lift the quarantine mandate after the interim period. The government on May 20, however, decided to extend the interim period for another four weeks.
Meanwhile, the country’s daily COVID-19 figures bounced back to nearly 10,000 on Tuesday, while the number of deaths came down to a nine-month low.
The country added 9,778 COVID-19 infections, including 41 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 18,239,056, the KDCA said.
Tuesday’s case count rose after dropping to 3,828 on Monday, the lowest since 3,094 reported on Jan. 11.
The increase in the caseload was attributed to the growth in the number of tests on weekdays after declining over the weekend.
Daily infections have shown a downward trend after posting an all-time high of over 620,000 in mid-March.
There were two new deaths recorded, bringing the death toll to 24,390. New deaths came to the lowest figure since Sept. 13, 2021, when a single death was reported.
The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent.
The number of critically ill patients came to 98, up from 95 the previous day, the KDCA said.
Of the 9,737 locally transmitted cases, Seoul accounted for 1,763 cases, with the surrounding Gyeonggi Province reporting 2,346 cases. There were 590 infections in nearby Incheon.
As of Tuesday, 44.61 million people, or 86.9 percent of the population, had completed the full two-dose vaccinations, and 33.34 million, or 65 percent, had received their first booster shots.
About 4.27 million people, or 8.3 percent of the population, had gotten their second booster shots, the KDCA said.