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Up to 6 people can gather starting from Mon.; vaccine passes suspended at dept. stores and supermarkets Updated: 2022-01-17 10:20:47 KST

Right Soa thank you for now.
As mentioned earlier there have been slight changes to vaccine pass requirements here in the country and I have Kim YEON-SEUNG in the studio with details.
YEON-SEUNG good to see you again

Thank you for having me, Sunny.

So do start us off with the latest on vaccine pass requirements.

Yes, the Korea government announced on Monday that vaccine passes will NOT be required at department stores and large supermarkets following a court injunction.
First, let's take a listen to what the health minister said this morning.

"The spread has downsized compared to December when we first expanded vaccine passes. Considering prevention protocols and the public's reception of them, there seems to be a need to loosen the vaccine pass rules for low-risk facilities."

These low-risk facilities also include museums, movie theaters, private academies, and study rooms.
But vaccine passes will continue to be enforced at music academies, where students need to take off their masks to sing or play an instrument for example.
These changes will be enforced starting from Tuesday.
However, vaccine pass requirements at cafes, restaurants, and bars will remain in place.
To sum up, around 11 percent of the venues that previously required vaccine passes will not be tied down to these rules anymore.
The government is also planning to lighten the penalties for businesses that violate vaccine pass rules, in light of their financial struggles.

Vaccine pass requirements at department stores and supermarkets only came into effect last week before the court intervened to suspend the measure right?

Right, just before this past weekend on Friday, the Seoul Administrative Court issued an order to suspend vaccine pass requirements at department stores and supermarkets.
This is following an injunction request submitted by a group of more than 1,000 citizens last month as part of a lawsuit filed against the government.
Vaccine pass requirements for minors that were due to be enforced starting in March have also been put on hold.
This court's limited jurisdiction however means that the decision only applies to the city of Seoul.
Nevertheless, the government has announced a lifting of these restrictions nationwide in light of the recent controversy.
Health authorities however, are planning to appeal the decision on vaccine passes for minors entering non-essential or non-educational facilities while they wait for a ruling on the main lawsuit which is still ongoing.

Moving on Yeon-seung what's the latest with regard to the spread of Omicron on the local front?

Well, the share of Omicron cases have more than doubled in a week.
According to health authorities this morning, Omicron cases made up almost 27 percent of domestic infections, more than double from the week before.
They also make up almost 95 percent of the imported cases.
Since Omicron could drive the infection rates back up, health authorities have extended their social distancing measures for another three weeks.

Right they're holding the measures in place but there are also some changes?

That's right.
Starting from this week, up to 6 people can gather nationwide.
This is compared to the four-person limit that we've had in the nation for the past four weeks.
Authorities loosened the social gathering rules just a bit, since business owners have been protesting against the strict COVID-19 curbs that have affected their livelihoods.
But due to threat posed by Omicron, health authorities are treading lightly with these prevention measures.
Other rules remain mostly intact, including business curfews.
Eateries, bars, gyms, public baths must close by 9 PM, while hagwons, PC rooms, and kids cafes can stay open until 10 at night.
For mass gatherings and events, up to 49 people are allowed if there are unvaccinated people in the mix, and up to 299 people if everybody is vaccinated.
These measures will stay put until at least Seollal, the Lunar New Year, when a lot of gatherings and cross-country travel are expected.
Health authorities are also contemplating extra measures during Seollal holiday to prevent any wide-scale outbreaks.

Meanwhile on the treatment front what has been shared about the distribution of anti-viral COVID-19 pills here?

Well, the first batch of these pills just arrived in the country last Thursday and rollouts began on Friday.
9 people who are being treated from home started taking the treatment on the very day that the rollouts began.
All of these people are either seniors aged 65 and over, or has weakened immunity who have been prioritized to receive these pills.
And so far, none of the recipients have reported any side effects.
Health authorities also said on Saturday, that most of these patients have shown visible improvement in their conditions.
So let's hope that these pills that have so often been called game-changers can help us turn a corner in our outbreak.

All right Yeon-seung thank you for that report.
See you on Tuesday.
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