SEOUL: South Korea will temporarily lift a requirement for vaccine passes or negative COVID-19 tests at a number of businesses to ease the strain on testing centres, authorities said on Monday (Feb 28), as the country faces a wave of Omicron infections.
The move will allow public testing and health facilities to devote more resources to battling the wave of new cases, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol told a COVID-19 response meeting.
Officials also said they would shelve plans to require vaccine passes for children aged 12 to 18, citing controversy and court cases over the measures, Yonhap news agency reported.
In recent weeks, South Korea has reported average daily per-capita infection rates that have exceeded some of the peaks in hard-hit countries such as the United States and Britain.
Death rates in highly vaccinated South Korea have remained at a fraction of the rate seen in those countries.
More than 86 per cent of the country’s 52 million people are fully vaccinated, with more than 61 per cent having received booster shots.
South Korea reported 139,626 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Sunday, as cases dropped from a record high of 171,442 on Wednesday. Serious cases have risen, however, and daily deaths hit a record 114.
Overall South Korea has reported 8,058 deaths since the pandemic began, and more than 3.1 million cases.
Health officials predict that the current wave will peak at around 250,000 daily cases by mid-March.