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Mask rule for public transit, pharmacies to be eased from March 20

The national rule requiring mask wearing will be scrapped on March 20 on public transportation like buses and subways and at pharmacies located in large open spaces like hypermarkets or train stations.

The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters in a meeting on March 15 announced its decision to lift the mandate for the first time in nearly 2 1/2 years since its adoption in October 2020.

The headquarters said the decision stemmed from the stable quarantine situation, with the average daily number of confirmed cases falling 38% and that of new critically ill patients declining 55%. It also cited the lack of a new variant cases since the rule for indoor mask wearing was eased on Jan. 30 from "required" to "recommended."

Wearing masks, however, was strongly recommended for those riding public transit during rush hours, high-risk groups and people with COVID-19 symptoms.  

Pharmacies not located in large open spaces will maintain the mask requirement given the risk of infection between suspected cases of the coronavirus and high-risk groups.

After March 20, masks must be worn only at infection-prone venues like hospitals, pharmacies, nursing clinics and homes, long-term medical care centers, mental health facilities and welfare centers for disabled people.

"Thanks to public compliance with quarantine rules, we can take a step closer to recovery of daily life," the headquarters said. "We will raise the rates of additional vaccination and prescription of treatment to minimize the severity of symptoms and deaths, as well as prepare without fail a roadmap for recovery of daily life from COVID-19."

By Xu Aiying