As the Omicron variant recedes and daily infections drop to a more than two-month low of less than 50,000, South Korea dropped practically all of its Covid-19 safeguards on Monday, marking a major step toward a return to normalcy.
A midnight curfew on restaurants and other establishments, as well as a limit of 10 persons allowed to meet, were repealed. Snacks will be permitted in theatres and other indoor public venues such as stadiums beginning next week.
People must still wear masks outside, with the government expecting to examine the restriction in two weeks to see if it should be lifted.
The regulatory changes came as the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea plummeted to 47,743 on Monday, the lowest level since February 9, after peaking at over 620,000 per day in mid-March.
Some requirements, such as mandatory quarantine for unvaccinated inbound travellers and negative PCR testing for those who have been completely vaccinated, remain in place.
South Korea has largely limited deaths and serious cases through extensive vaccination, and it has pulled back the aggressive tracking and containment measures that made it a mitigation success story for most of the pandemic’s first two years.
According to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, about 87 percent of the 52 million people have been fully vaccinated, with 64 percent having additionally received a booster.
Companies are progressively returning to their workplaces as the constraints are relaxed.
The majority of employees at big steelmaker POSCO have returned to work this month, making it one of the first major corporations to do so.
LG Electronics announced on Monday that it had decreased the percentage of staff working from home to 30% from 50%, as well as eliminating a limit on the number of individuals allowed in meetings.
Samsung Electronics said it had yet to put its back-to-office strategy into action, and the public sector is likewise waiting for new government instructions.
Officials at the Bank of Korea, which has 30 percent of its head office workers working from home, are considering loosening their guidelines.
Workplaces with 300 or more employees should embrace flexible working hours and have 10% of their employees work from home, according to the government.