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#Hot Issues of the Week l 2022-12-25
Health authorities have decided to gradually downgrade the nationwide indoor mask mandate to a recommendation once they see a more stable level of COVID-19 infections. The nation's disease control chief predicted that related discussions may begin as as early as the end of January.
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters on Friday announced that it will ease its indoor mask mandate to a recommendation in phases, after reviewing infection trends and risk factors concerning different facilities.
Authorities will need to check off two out of four key indicators for discussions to begin on first-phase adjustments. The agency did not specify a timeline.
The four indicators concern daily infections, deaths and patients in critical care, healthcare capacity and immunity among high-risk groups.
More specifically, the government said weekly infections must be on a decline for two or more consecutive weeks and weekly critical cases must drop on-week, while the fatality rate needs to stay under zero-point-one percent.
The availability of beds at intensive care units should be at 50 percent or higher, and booster vaccination rates must be at a minimum 50 percent among seniors and 60 percent for high-risk facilities.
Although mask-wearing will be lowered to a recommendation during the first phase, it will remain a mandate for health care facilities, pharmacies, social welfare centers and public transportation.
Once the nation lowers its crisis alert for COVID-19 from "serious" to "vigilance" or "caution," or its legal infectious disease classification revised down from "Class Two" to "Class Four," the mandate will likely no longer remain in effect.
Meanwhile, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency(KDCA) Commissioner Jee Young-mee forecast the latest winter spike in infections to peak next month, suggesting discussions on lifting the mandate may take place after the Lunar New Year holiday in late January.