(LEAD) COVID-19 isolation period likely to be shortened to 5 days in May

The mandatory COVID-19 isolation period is expected to be reduced to five days from the current seven starting in early May as the government is considering downgrading the virus to a lower infection level.

COVID-19 has been classified as a "serious" disease since February 2020, and a classification downgrade to an "alert" level means that infected people will be required to isolate for five days, from the current seven.

A decision on whether to downgrade it will be made in early May, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said.

"The long fight against COVID-19, which has lasted for more than three years, is nearing an end," Han told a COVID-19 response meeting. "It was a difficult process, but thanks to the participation of the people, patience and the dedication of medical workers, we were able to get here."

If virus situations continue to stabilize after a downgrade of the disease category for COVID-19 in May, the government will also downgrade the virus' infection level to Class 4 from Class 2, Han said.

Currently, the virus' infection level is on par with chickenpox or measles, and Class 4, categorized as the lowest level, includes the seasonal flu.

When COVID-19 is categorized as Class 4, the government will fully lift a mask mandate and abolish mandatory isolation for infected people, Han said.

Earlier this month, the government ended the mask mandate for public transportation, lifting one of the last-remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

The mask mandate remains in place for medical facilities, pharmacies and facilities vulnerable to infections.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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