Citizens welcome lifting of outdoor mask mandate, some still on edge about lingering risks

SEOUL-- South Koreans on Friday welcomed the government's decision to lift the outdoor mask mandate, voicing hopes for a complete return to maskless normalcy, but some remain wary about lingering COVID-19 infection risks.

Starting Monday, mask wearing will no longer be mandatory in outdoor places, except when people attend gatherings of 50 or more or use multiuse facilities, the government announced in the latest in a series of decisions to roll back social distancing rules.

Wearing a mask had been required indoors and partly outdoors since late 2020, with violators subject to fines.

Oh Sang-joon, a 27-year-old office worker, hailed the lifting of the outdoor mandate as a "timely" decision.

"The rate of infections is very low outdoors. Wearing a mask is meaningless at a time when it's almost impossible to trace the sources of infection," Oh said, voicing hopes for the country's prompt return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

A graduate student who identified by his family name Park said the decision may give a big boost to his jogging routine this summer.

"I am very happy that I can jog without a mask in the increasingly hot weather. It has been a burden having to run with a mask on."

The beauty industry as well as outdoor sports instructors and couriers expect the rollback of the outdoor mask mandate to be a boon to their businesses.

"There are customers now who say they are buying cosmetics ahead of the outdoor mask mandate's removal," a part-time worker at a cosmetic shop in the neighborhood of Gunja in eastern Seoul told Yonhap News Agency. "Sales of makeup products, especially lip sticks, are likely to go up."

Kim Hyeon-duk, a 51-year-old courier, said the decision may take a load off his work.

"It has been very demanding since COVID-19 to work with a mask on. It's suffocating and steamy," he said while moving parcels into a convenience store in southern Seoul's Seocho district.

Parents of young children and those at high health risks, however, remain wary of persisting infection risks, and said they may continue to wear masks outdoors for some time.

"I am not yet ready to have my child go out without a mask," Kim Tae-un, a 35-year-old parent who was walking her eight-year-old daughter to school, told Yonhap. "I don't want my child to get COVID-19, and there are still possibilities of new variants and mutations."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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