August 3, 2023
SEOUL – government would take caution when deciding whether to downgrade the infectious disease classification of COVID-19 next week, noting an uptick in the number of infections in recent weeks.
“We will carefully assess the timing of lowering COVID-19’s classification to class 4 by studying domestic and foreign trends, quarantine operations and consulting with experts,” Jee Young-mee, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
The agency said it would decide on downgrading COVID-19’s classification in light of the current outbreak, which recorded 45,000 average daily COVID-19 infections last week. It was set to make an announcement within this month.
If adjusted to class 4, COVID-19 will be treated like other respiratory infectious diseases. The mask mandate would be lifted everywhere, including vulnerable places such as hospital-grade or higher medical institutions that treat inpatients or residential medical facilities with groups vulnerable to infectious diseases.
The KDCA had planned to downgrade the infectious disease classification of COVID-19 from the current class 2 to class 4, the same level as the flu, this month.
COVID-19 had been classified as a class 1 disease following the outbreak, and was adjusted to class 2 last year. Infectious diseases classified as class 2 should be reported to the government within 24 hours of occurrence, unlike class 4, which do not.
Omicron XBB subvariant strains are prevalent at home and abroad. These strains are evaluated to have no higher risk of clinical symptoms than previous Omicron subvariants, according to the disease control agency.
“The number of new COVID-19 infections is increasing due to reduced immunity over time after vaccination, not wearing masks and increased time spent indoors during the heat wave. The risk of COVID-19 is not big for healthy people, but protection for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems is still needed,” the KDCA noted.
The daily average number of confirmed cases last week is still about 35 percent of the daily average recorded during the peak of last summer’s wave, whereas it is about 60 percent of the daily average during the peak of last winter’s wave.