Gov't to determine whether to lift outdoor mask mandate in early May: interior minister
SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- The government will make a decision in early May on whether to lift the mask mandate in outdoor places, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said Wednesday.
Starting this week, all COVID-19 social distancing requirements, except the mask mandate, were lifted, including a curfew on operating hours of restaurants, cafes and other small businesses, as well as the cap on the size of private gatherings.
The government has said the indoor mask-wearing requirement will be unavoidable for "a considerable time," but it will decide whether to lift the mask mandate in less-risky outdoor places after monitoring the COVID-19 situation over the two weeks following the abolition of social distancing rules.
"The importance of mask-wearing remains formidable," Jeon said during a government coronavirus response meeting. "Through a thorough assessment of the disease prevention situation and collection of opinions from experts, the government will determine in early May whether to keep requiring mask-wearing outdoors."
The interior minister said the government will also make a final decision in late May on whether to downgrade the Class 1 level of COVID-19 in the country's four-tier infection disease system through "sufficient communications" with the medical industry and regional municipal governments.
The government will also suspend state restrictions on the hosting of large-scale festivals in line with the recent lifting of social distancing requirements, according to the minister.
"The operation of the review and approval system on festivals participated in by more than 300 people will temporarily be suspended," he said.
Having been on the downside for the fourth week in a row, the country's COVID-19 wave is expected to go down further, with the basic COVID-19 reproduction number remaining at 0.78 as of late, the minister noted.
The daily COVID-19 infection average stood at some 110,000 in the week ending April 19, about 40 percent less than that of the previous week while the hospital bed occupancy rate for seriously ill COVID-19 patients is at 43 percent, the minister added.
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