With Coronavirus plaguing the world for almost two years, the economy alongside its civillians are still suffering and reaching their limits of fatigue. Now, like other countries, Korea has finally launched a plan to commence living with Corona.
In order to prevent any more future damages from the virus now that more than 80% of the population has been vaccinated, Korea is officially entering its phase of living with Coronavirus. Although masks will still be a mandatory way of life, many tighter restrictions will be lifted and limitations on business hours and gatherings of groups will be lessened.
Starting from 5 am on the 1st of November, the following rules will be observed and put into place:
In the metropolitan area, up to 10 people can gather, and in non-metropolitan areas, up to 12 people can gather. Metropolitan areas include Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Incheon. However, at restaurants and cafes, up to 4 people who have not been vaccinated can join. This is a measure that takes into account the fact that it is a space where people can take off their masks and have a conversation. In addition, a ‘Quarantine Pass’ (inoculation certificate, negative confirmation system) is applied to entertainment and sports facilities.
Restrictions on business hours for livelihood facilities will be removed. These include most multi-use facilities, such as restaurants and cafes, which are now allowed to operate 24 hours a day. Despite the ease of rules, entertainment facilities, older disco clubs, bars and dance studios, which are high-risk facilities for infection, will be restricted from operating after 12:00 a.m.
Patients and residents who enter 130,000 facilities with a high risk of COVID-19 infection, such as vocal practice centers, karaoke, bathhouse and sauna businesses, indoor sports facilities, entertainment facilities, horse racing, bicycle racing marathons and clubs, and casinos must show a certificate of completion of vaccination or a negative test from the hospital before entrance is granted. These certifications can be shown via smartphones like in the picture below.
However, those under the age of 18, those who are recovering from COVID-19, and those who have not been vaccinated for medical reasons are exempt from the quarantine pass and are restricted from entering the facility without said certifications.
Currently, as a safety protocol, the government will initiate a one-week trial period until the 7th of November to ensure the success of the new laws and prevent an extreme increase in confirmed cases. Indoor sports facilities such as gyms and table tennis are allowed to operate without such limitations for two weeks( until the 14th) in consideration of refunds and extensions of ticket purchases.
Looking to get your proof of inoculation completion for your phone and convenience? It can be done with an electronic certificate issued by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (COOV) app or approved apps such as Naver and Kakao, that are linked to the COOV and provide access to paperwork issued by a public health center. For other options, an immunization sticker attached to an identification card can also be used as well as voice confirmation with a text message or paper confirmation issued by the public health center. Negative results are only effective until midnight on the 48th day of notification.
The number of guests allowed at events and assemblies will also increase. Up to 99 people, including those who have not been vaccinated, can gather and up to 499 people if those people have completed inoculation or who have tested negative. However, weddings, exhibitions/expositions, and international conferences that could have been held with more than 100 people, including those who were not vaccinated, must follow the existing standards.
In movie theaters and outdoor sports stadiums, ‘exclusive areas for inoculations’ will be established, and eating and drinking is allowed only in this area. As daily recovery begins, there is a possibility that the number of confirmed cases will increase sharply. When a crisis comes, such as the utilization rate of patient rooms and inpatient beds exceeding 75%, the government will temporarily suspend daily recovery and activates as an ’emergency plan’ to curb the rapid rates and recover.
In this case, the number of facilities that apply the quarantine pass will increase, and private gatherings will be further restricted in addition to stronger measures such as restrictions on the size and time of events, prohibition of visits to nursing hospitals, etc. If there are no emergencies, daily recovery is expected to take place in three phases at six-week intervals. Each stage goes through a four-week implementation period and a two-week evaluation period.
If the interval of 6 weeks is substituted, the second phase will be implemented on December 13th and the third phase will be implemented on January 24th of next year.
In the second phase of the reorganization, the restrictions on businesses closing at 12 a.m., which were applied only to the previous places mentioned above, will return to their normal operating hours. The quarantine pass will also be lifted from low-risk facilities.
There is no limit on the number of events for those who have completed inoculation or those who have confirmed negative tests can participate in, so performances with tens of thousands of people will be possible. However, the quarantine pass is newly applied to large-scale events with more than 100 people to start.
The government is also planning to adjust the range of wearing and removing outdoor masks in the second phase. In the third phase of the reorganization, all restrictions on the number of people related to private meetings and events will be removed and only basic rules such as wearing an indoor mask, signing in with electronic access lists and safe calling methods would remain.
There will also be changes in the educational field as well. From the 22nd of November, which is the Monday following the end of the College Scholastic Ability Test (November 18th), elementary, middle, and high school students from all over the country will go to school every day. It is the first nationwide school attendance in about a year and eight months since online schooling started on April 9th of last year.
Bus schedules, subway metro, and train schedules will also return to their normal operation times but it is recommended to check and confirm with specific bus and train companies before traveling.
What do you think of Korea’s new approach to beating out COVID-19 and accept a return back to a life that seemed so far and out of reach? Share your comments and concerns with us below.