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President Yoon declares end to COVID-19, return to daily life

The government has declared the lifting of almost all COVID-19 restrictions to effectively categorize the disease as endemic.

President Yoon Suk Yeol on May 11 announced an end to COVID-19 restrictions and the mandatory seven-day isolation period for those testing positive for the coronavirus at a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters (CDSCH) at the Office of the President in Seoul's Yongsan-gu District.

"The CDSCH today lowered the COVID-19 crisis warning level from 'serious' to 'alert' and will fully apply this from June," he said in his opening statement.

"I'm happy that the people can return to daily life for the first time in three years and four months," he added. "The mandatory seven-day quarantine for those testing positive has been converted to a five-day recommendation period, and the suggested PCR test after entry into the country has also been lifted."

"We also decided to scrap all rules requiring mask wearing indoors except at hospitals with inpatient facilities."

President Yoon added, "As a transitional measure, we will maintain for the time being financial support for COVID-19-related testing and treatment."

Most quarantine regulations that took effect after the nation confirmed its first COVID-19 case on January 20, 2020, have thus been lifted.

"(The declaration of endemic status) was possible after the pandemic's passing and return to normal life thanks to the dedication and efforts of many people," the president said. "I thank the doctors, nurses and nursing assistants who devoted themselves to the front line, health care workers for their efforts in the research, development and production of vaccines and treatments, local government officials and public health authorities."

"Above all, I'm deeply grateful to our people for actively cooperating with quarantine measures," he added. "Going forward, the government will definitively prepare a science-based response system for new pandemics."

"We will boost our capacity to develop vaccines against and treatments for new pandemics and reinforce international cooperation," the president said. "We will meticulously prepare post-COVID-19 policy including one of digital so that the social changes incurred by the coronavirus can be turned into future growth engines."

By Lee Jihae