South Korea‘s new Interior Minister Lee Sang-min speaks during a COVID-19 response meeting on Friday. (Yonhap)
South Korea has decided to add an additional 230 international flights next month to meet increasing travel demand amid the weakening pandemic.
With the addition, the number of weekly international flights will come to 762 in June, up from 532 in May and 420 in April, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said during a COVID-19 response meeting on Friday.
From May 23, the government would also take rapid antigen test results for travelers coming to South Korea. Previously, the government only accepted travelers with polymerase chain reaction test results.
Starting June 1, international arrivals will be allowed to receive PCR tests within three days of their arrival. They are currently mandated to take the test on the day of arrival.
The government’s decisions came amid increasing international travel demands, which followed the government’s lifting of major social distancing rules.
Even after the country lifted social distancing rules and the outdoor mask mandate, the number of daily COVID-19 cases has stayed relatively low.
According to Lee, the weekly average number of infections reported between Thursday and Friday last week decreased 12.7 percent on-week.
On Friday, South Korea added 32,451 new COVID-19 infections, staying below the 40,000s for two straight days. The tally is down from 35,906 on Thursday but up from 26,701 a week ago.
The number of critically ill patients came to 347 as of midnight Thursday, down seven from a day earlier. Severe cases stayed in the 300s for the fourth consecutive day.
The country reported 52 deaths from COVID-19, remaining under 100 for around two weeks by now.
Lee, however, noted that the government is aware that a significant number of COVID-19 deaths still come from elderly care facilities.
Lee said the government will check local elderly care facilities and have them to equip a proper ventilation system and secure enough health care workers to handle COVID-19 patients.
In addition, the government would secure oral COVID-19 medications enough to treat 1 million patients, Lee said.
The government will also adjust the age limit for taking the oral medications to include younger patients, particularly those with underlying diseases. Under the new rule, patients aged at least 12 will be able to take oral medications if they have underlying diseases.
Currently, COVID-19 patients who are 60 and above are eligible for oral medications, while patients aged 40 and above can be prescribed oral medications if they have underlying illnesses.
Meanwhile, it was the first time that the country’s new Interior Minister hosted a COVID-19 response meeting. Lee took office on Friday.
By Shim Woo-hyun (email@example.com