Government to Exempt Cram Schools, Study Rooms, Museums, Movie Theaters and Large Retailers from Vaccine Pass

Min Seo-yeong 2022. 1. 17. 16:12
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Kwon Deok-cheol (minister of health and welfare, right), first assistant director of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, speaks at a Headquarters meeting in response to COVID-19 at the government office in Sejong-si on the morning of January 17. Yonhap News

The government decided to exempt facilities with low risk of COVID-19 contagion, such as cram schools (private academies), study rooms, museums, movie theaters and large supermarkets, from the vaccine pass (certificate of vaccination or certificate of negative test result).

At a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters meeting on January 17, Minister of Health and Welfare Kwon Deok-cheol made an opening comment and said, “The government plans to exempt facilities where people can wear masks at all times and where the discharge of respiratory droplets are less likely from the vaccine pass.” Minister Kwon explained, “Compared to December when we expanded the scope of the vaccine pass, at present, the spread of the virus has slowed, and our medical system has more room to respond. After considering our disease control principles and the acceptance of government measures, we decided that there was a need to lift the vaccine pass in facilities with little risk.” He also said, “We will listen to opinions from the field for better government measures, such as health-related exceptions to the vaccine pass and punishment of business owners who fail to follow government guidelines, and soon make decisions for the sensible implementation of measures.”

On January 14, Administration Division 4 of the Seoul Administrative Court ruled for the suspension of the vaccine pass for minors and large retail stores and department stores in Seoul. That same day, Administration Division 13 of the Seoul Administrative Court denied a request for the suspension of execution on vaccine passes in major retail chains and department stores nationwide, a case filed against the minister of health and welfare. Thus, people were allowed to enter large stores in Seoul without vaccine passes, while the pass was still required in other areas. This triggered a heated debate on fairness. The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters is scheduled to announce details on lifting the vaccine pass at a regular press briefing at 11 a.m. this day.

The health minister announced that the omicron strain accounted for 26.7% of cases in Korea last week, more than double the rate from the previous week (12.5%). In particular, omicron accounted for 94.7% of the positive cases entering the nation from overseas. The omicron variant is spreading fast in Gyeonggi-do and the Honam region due to clusters of transmission among foreigners including members of the USFK. Kwon said, “According to the analysis by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, we expect omicron to become the dominant strain around this weekend.” He added, “If we make the wrong response, we could follow in the steps of many other countries suffering from a paralyzed medical system and the collapse of social functions, such as education, care, transport and fire services.”

According to the health minister, the government will accelerate efforts to secure hospital beds for COVID-19 patients with serious symptoms as well as hospital beds exclusively for covid patients and to fully prepare an at-home treatment system. The government will also get neighborhood clinics involved in the treatment and management of at-home patients, secure additional COVID-19 pills and establish an efficient prescription and monitoring system.

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