As Covid-19 cases continue to drop, Jung says mask rule easing imminent – KBR

Korea's new Covid-19 cases fell to the lowest Monday tally in 12 weeks, recording 14,144 Covid-19 infections on Monday.
This included 64 imported cases pushing the total to 29,821,035 cases. According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), 64 percent of the imported cases were from China.
Korea still requires a negative PCR or antigen test before and after entering the country for visitors from China, and neighboring countries like Macao and Hong Kong are also subject to a negative pre-entry test.
There were also 35 additional deaths, raising the death toll to 32,984 with critically ill patients increasing to 510, from 499 on the previous day.
However, Monday tallies are usually lower than other days due to the reduced testing capacity on weekends.
Jung Ki-seok, a top adviser to the government's Covid-19 task force said at a regular Covid-19 briefing that the epidemic has become a stable situation after passing its peak.
In this regard, he said, “The lifting of mask obligations is not far away.”
Lifting the indoor mask mandate will increases cases to some extent but will not have a great impact, he added.
Recently, the epidemic trend has been noticeably easing with confirmed cases in the past week decreasing by 27 percent from 410,000 to 300,000.
The number of deaths per week went down by 11 percent from 400 to 356 and weekly critical cases declined by about 17 percent from 530 to 440.
He went on to say that regardless of the policies announced before or after the Lunar New Year, he did not expect Korean society will be significantly impacted. 
Although the criteria for lifting the mask mandate has been met, it is safest to wait a little longer to decide because of overseas factors, Jung said.
He urged prompt vaccination due to the low immunity level in high-risk groups.
According to Jung, out of 14.2 million people in the high-risk group, 8.5 million people have immunity, and 40 percent do not yet have sufficient immunity with facility users and workers accounting for 60.5 percent.
“In particular, the vaccination coverage rate for those aged 65 and older exceeded 40 percent, but the vaccination rate for those aged 60 to 64 was only 19 percent,” he added.
Jung emphasized his concern for this age group as they recorded a fatality rate between 0.03 to 0.07 percent in December 2022 of last year, which is by no means low.
Meanwhile, Jung also took note of the epidemic situation in the U.S, China, and Japan which also seem to be trending downwards saying that this will also positively influence Korea’s Covid-19 policy decisions.