Deaths: 49 | Severely ill: 368 | Hospitalized: 351 | New cases: 33,969
(Seven-day averages as reported on May 15, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
The KDCA briefing on Friday May 13 announced some tweaks to international arrival procedures. Starting May 23, people who plan to travel to South Korea will have an alternative to taking a pre-departure PCR test (result valid for 48 hours). They may instead choose to take a rapid antigen test (RAT) no more than 24 hours before departure. Additionally, from June 1, the window for the PCR test that is required to be taken on arrival in Korea will be extended from 24 to 72 hours. And as already announced, the RAT on day 6 or 7 will be optional from June onward.
Also from June 1, vaccination and quarantine requirements for minors arriving from overseas will be significantly eased. Presently, children aged 6 to 17 must be fully vaccinated (including the booster shot), or 14 to 180 days must have passed since their second shot. This period, 14 to 180 days after the second shot, is when the vaccine is thought to be most effective. Without a record of vaccination they, like adults who have not been vaccinated, must quarantine for seven days. Children younger than six years old are exempt from vaccination and quarantine. Starting June 1, however, minors under 18 who received their second shot more than 14 days ago will also be exempt from quarantine, and children under 12 are fully exempt from both the vaccination and quarantine requirements. These changes should be of interest to people planning to travel to South Korea this summer.
The numbers of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are continuing to ease, and there haven’t been any significant changes made to social distancing rules. Most people are still wearing masks outdoors, but once in a while people can be spotted taking a walk around the block with their masks in hand, or at least pulled down under their noses to enjoy the warmer air and the scent of spring flowers. So this seems as good a point as any to bring an end to our weekly updates. Stay tuned for future posts reflecting on Korea’s response to the pandemic.
May 9—7:15pm—Changing of hands
Deaths: 69 | Severely ill: 430 | Hospitalized: 384 | New cases: 38,417
(Seven-day averages as reported on May 8, 12:00am. Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare)
The number of deaths and hospitalizations due to Covid have continued to fall since social distancing measures were lifted a few weeks ago and outdoor mask-wearing was made optional last week. Nationwide, 79.6% of Covid-specialized intensive care beds remain unoccupied. Booster vaccines have been given to 64.7% of the population. The proportion is even higher in people aged 60 or older, with 89.6% of them boosted and 20.1% having received their fourth shot. The death rate now stands at 0.13% of the total number of Covid-19 cases, which is 45 deaths for every 100,000 people in the country.
The presidential inauguration today marks an end and a beginning. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, who has headed the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, led his final briefing last Friday affirming the achievements of the past two years and three months. The planning committee of the incoming administration has for some time criticized the outgoing administration for being driven by political concerns rather than science in their pandemic policy, and had expressed its view that outdoor mask-wearing should remain obligatory. But, at this point, as the Omicron wave evens out, the new president and his officials most likely will not reinstate social distancing regulations. It also does not seem likely that they will make any drastic changes to the pandemic response.