S. Korea to lower national crisis level for COVID-19 soon

South Korea plans to "swiftly" lower its national crisis level for COVID-19, the head of the country's public health agency said Saturday, after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to the virus as a global health emergency earlier this week.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Commissioner Jee Young-mee made the announcement in a release, following WHO's move Friday to end the public health emergency of international concern that had been in place since January 2020.

"By considering the WHO Emergency Committee results, the trend of the virus' spread at home and abroad, domestic antivirus measures, medical response capabilities, policies of major countries, and others, we will swiftly confirm the downgrade plan for the COVID-19 emergency level through an emergency assessment meeting with experts," Jee said.

In March, South Korea unveiled a road map to eventually redefine COVID-19 as an endemic and ease the remaining virus restrictions after WHO declares an end to the global emergency status for the virus.

Under the country's first-stage plan, set to be announced sometime this month, the national crisis level for the virus will be lowered to an "alert" level from the current "serious" level among other measures.

With the downgrade, the current mandatory seven-day COVID-19 isolation period will be reduced to five days, operations of temporary virus screening centers and the governmentwide response from the central disaster and safety headquarters will end, and daily virus tallies will be announced weekly.

The government expects to announce its second-stage plan in July.

South Korea has so far removed most COVID-19 restrictions, with the mask mandate in high-risk places like hospitals and pharmacies being an exception.

Source: Yonhap News Agency