Infections: 155,071 | Cleared: 146,340 | Under treatment: 6,718 | Deaths: 2,013
(As of Jun 27, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
The number of new cases reached the 600s most days last week, an increase from the previous week. By June 27, 29.8% of the population had received at least their first dose of the Covid vaccine.
This Thursday (July 1) the new, more lenient, social distancing scheme will go into effect. Those who have had at least one dose of the vaccine may go mask-free outdoors (except at mass gatherings, concerts, sports stadiums, theme parks, traditional markets, and other densely congregated spaces). But fears of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus are causing some to question whether it is wise to loosen restrictions. The KDCA and the government will push ahead with the scheduled plans, though. They are asking citizens to keep on with the vaccinations, continue to practice good hygiene, and keep their masks on indoors.
June 21—8am—New, less restrictive social distancing scheme to go into effect in July
Infections: 151,149 | Cleared: 142,899 | Under treatment: 6,248 | Deaths: 2,002
(As of Jun 20, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
The average number of new cases per day dropped to 444 nationwide and 335 in the greater Seoul region in the week ending June 19. By June 20, 29.2% of the population had received at least one vaccine dose.
With the numbers remaining under control and vaccinations progressing rapidly, the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters announced on Sunday that the revised social distancing scheme will go into effect across the country on July 1. The new scheme will have four levels instead of the current five, and will be based on the daily average number of new cases, the threshold for levels varying according to each region’s population. For Greater Seoul, Level 1 will apply if daily new cases stay under 250, Level 2 if the number exceeds 250, Level 3 for cases above 500, and Level 4 if cases rise above 1000. Under Level 1 rules, there will be no limit to private gatherings and no limits to any business operations. Level 2 limits private gatherings to a maximum of eight people, and businesses may operate until midnight. Level 3 restricts private gatherings to four people and businesses must close by 10pm. At Level 4, private gatherings after 6pm will be limited to two people, and nightclubs and bars will have to close. For all levels, masks should still be worn indoors at all times, though those who are vaccinated may take off their masks outdoors.
If the numbers stay as they have been for the past few weeks, then from July 1 the new Level 2 restrictions will apply to the greater Seoul region and Level 1 to the rest of the country. However, the first two weeks (July 1–14) have been designated a transition period, so in Greater Seoul private gatherings will still be restricted to six people.
The Ministry of Education also announced on Sunday that under Levels 1 and 2 in the new social distancing scheme, all students from kindergarten to secondary levels will be able to attend face-to-face classes daily in the fall semester. More specifically, under Level 1 in-person classes should resume, and under Level 2 they are recommended, though regions may assess the risks for themselves and decide to have only two-thirds of the students attend classes in person.
June 14—7am—Holding off the virus until July, rapid pace of vaccination, exemptions to quarantine-on-arrival
Infections: 147,874 | Cleared: 138,581 | Under treatment: 7,308 | Deaths: 1,985
(As of Jun 13, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
The average number of daily new cases this week fell to 524. However, the current social distancing levels will be extended again for the next three weeks, until July 4, to guard against further spread of infections, until the country has met its vaccination goals by the end of June. Currently, Level 2 applies in the greater Seoul region as well as a few other cities and regions with severe outbreaks, and the rest of the country is following Level 1.5 restrictions. The four-person limit to private gatherings will also be maintained. But by mid-June there will be some adjustments made to allow more spectators into sports stadiums and concert halls.
On the vaccination front, 23% of the Korean population had received at least the first of their two vaccine doses by June 13, and 5.8% had completed their vaccinations. The Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine began to be administered on June 11, and by June 13 58% of those eligible had got their dose.
South Korean residents who have completed their vaccine regimens have been exempt from the two-week quarantine on arrival since early May. On Sunday, the government extended the exemption to include Korean expatriates and foreigners entering South Korea for a family funeral or urgent business, academic, or public purposes if they have completed their vaccinations with the WHO approved vaccines at least two weeks before arrival. The exemptions do not apply to countries where Brazilian and South African variants are dominant. The list of such countries is likely to be updated as time goes on.
June 7—7am—Vaccinating on schedule
Infections: 144,156 | Cleared: 134,262 | Under treatment: 7,917 | Deaths: 1,973
(As of Jun 6, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
There was a slight increase in the average number of daily new cases in the week of May 30 to June 5 (578) compared to the previous week (562), though infections in those over age 60 decreased.
June 3 was the last day people between the ages of 74 and 60 could make vaccination appointments, and 80.6% of citizens in this age group have now done so. By June 6, 14.8% of the population had received at least their first shot. These are good signs that Korea will meet the projected goal of vaccinating at least 13 million people (25% of the population) by the end of June. Teachers and assistants in pre-schools, kindergartens, and elementary schools (first and second grades) were also eligible to make appointments, and 82.4% of them are expected to receive both doses during the summer break. They will be ready to resume face-to-face teaching come fall semester.