Asia Minute: South Korea Easing Some Pandemic Restrictions

Oct 14, 2020

Tomorrow, Hawaii will start the state’s new pre-travel testing program — a first step to increase the number of visitors.  Some locations in the Asia Pacific are slowly loosening certain restrictions related to the virus, and that includes South Korea.

Starting this week, life in South Korea has fewer rules.

Bars and nightclubs are back in business — though patrons still need to wear masks and the establishments need to keep entry logs just in case contact tracing comes into play. Sports stadiums can now seat fans at up to 30% capacity — by November that could be 50%.

One encouraging recent development, South Korea had back-to-back holiday weekends, and has not seen a spike in new cases.

The government had planned for the stricter rules to stay in place until the daily number of new cases fell below fifty for a sustained period, and untraceable cases were less than 5% of the total.

Neither of those benchmarks were met, but the Minister of Health and Welfare said the rules on behavior need to be “more sustainable in the long term” — in part because of what he called “public exhaustion with protracted social distancing.”

One common behavior has now become mandatory though: face masks.  

It’s now a national law for those using public transit, visiting any medical facility, or even taking part in a protest. After a 30-day grace period, those not wearing masks will be subject to a fine of up to about 90 U.S. dollars.

And proper placement counts: those fines include people whose noses are poking out over their masks.