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South Korea eases restrictions and imposes vaccine passports as part of ‘Living with COVID-19’ campaign, World News

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New rules aimed at getting South Koreans to ‘live with COVID-19’ went into effect on Monday, easing a series of restrictions and introducing vaccine passports in high-risk places such as gymnasiums, saunas and bars.

The shift in focus comes as more than 75% of the country’s population has been fully immunized. The first phase of the revised rules is expected to last a month, with plans to remove all restrictions by February.

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“The path back to daily life, towards which we are taking the first step today, is a path we have never taken,” Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said during a meeting. infra-agency meeting on COVID-19.

He asked people to continue to wear masks, ventilate rooms regularly and get tested if symptoms appear, noting that there are still concerns about a possible resurgence of new cases due to risk factors. such as the unvaccinated, future declines in immunity among the vaccinated, and year-end gatherings.

Although never locked down, South Korea has been battling a fourth wave of infections since July, when the government imposed stricter restrictions on gatherings and social distancing.

Among a series of changes, restaurant and cafe opening hour curfews have been lifted, and outdoor sporting events will be allowed to hold spectators at 50% capacity.

Up to 100 people can attend musicals or concerts, regardless of their vaccination status, while gyms will no longer have to limit the speed of treadmills or prohibit playing music with high beats per minute during group exercises.

However, visits to high-risk venues such as bars and nightclubs, indoor gymnasiums, saunas and karaoke bars will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours.

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Health Ministry spokesman Son Young-rae said the number of new cases could double or triple in the coming weeks. The medical system was designed to cover up to 5,000 new cases a day, but if the number reached nearly 10,000, the government would halt the easing process and take emergency measures, Son said.

South Korea reported 1,686 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, for a total of 366,386, with 2,858 total deaths.

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