South Korea

South Korea to increase international flights to meet travel demand

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South Korea’s new Interior Minister Lee Sang-min speaks at a COVID-19 response conference on Friday. (Yonhap News Agency via The Korea Herald/AsiaNews Network)

SEOUL — South Korea has decided to add 230 international flights next month to meet growing travel demand as the pandemic wanes.

In addition, the number of weekly international flights in June will increase to 762 from 532 in May and 420 in April, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said at a COVID-19 response meeting on Friday.

From May 23, the government will also conduct 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 undergo PCR testing within three days of arrival. They are currently required to take the test on the day of arrival.

The government’s decision comes amid increased demand for international travel and comes after the government lifted key social distancing rules.

Even after the country lifted social distancing rules and outdoor mask regulations, the number of daily COVID-19 cases remained relatively low.

The average weekly number of infections reported Thursday through Friday was down 12.7% from the previous week, according to Lee.

South Korea reported 32,451 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, staying below 40,000 for two days in a row. The number was down from 35,906 on Thursday, but up from 26,701 a week earlier.

The number of critically ill patients reached 347 as of midnight Thursday, down seven from the previous day. Severe cases remained at more than 300 for the fourth day in a row.

The country has reported 52 deaths from COVID-19, which remains below 100 for about two weeks now.

However, Lee noted that the government is aware that a large number of COVID-19 deaths are still coming from aged care facilities.

The government will inspect local aged care facilities to have them properly ventilated and ensure there are enough healthcare workers to handle COVID-19 patients, Lee said.

In addition, Lee said, the government will get enough oral COVID-19 drugs to treat 1 million patients.

The government will also adjust the age limit for taking oral medicines to include younger patients, especially those with underlying medical conditions. Under the new rules, patients 12 and older will be able to take oral medications if they have underlying medical conditions.

Currently, COVID-19 patients 60 years and older are eligible for oral medication, while those 40 years and older can receive oral medication if they have an underlying medical condition.

Meanwhile, this is the first time the country’s new interior minister has chaired a COVID-19 response meeting. Lee took office on Friday.

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