SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea will remove its COVID-19 quarantine requirements and finalize testing recommendations for international arrivals starting next month after the World Health Organization declared an end to the emergency. world health.

Lowering the coronavirus alert level from “critical” to clearly “alert” starting June 1, health authorities will also lift mask mandates in pharmacies and small clinics, but will continue to require mask use in large hospitals and long-term care facilities and other medical locations. with high risk of infection.

The decision was announced during a meeting attended by President Yoon Suk Yeol, where he thanked the country’s medical workers and said it was “delightful that people are getting their normal lives back after three and a half years.”

He said his government will take steps to improve the country’s ability to deal with future pandemics, including providing greater support for vaccine development and expanding international cooperation.

South Korea has been requiring seven-day quarantines for virus carriers. While the mandate will be lifted from June 1, health officials will continue to recommend people self-isolate for five days if they test positive for the virus, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. Travelers had been advised to take PCR tests within three days of arriving in the country, but that recommendation will also be lifted.

South Korea had maintained a strict response to COVID-19 based on aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantines during the early part of the pandemic, but has eased most of its virus checks since last year as the surge in the omicron variant made those containment strategies irrelevant.

The WHO had declared an end to the COVID-19 emergency last week, though Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the viral disease remained a global health threat.

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