South Korea will put on hold the further easing of restrictions in the next stage of a return to normal life, and rather focus on speeding up vaccinations in the next four weeks.
President Moon Jae-in announced the decision Monday during a special meeting on the nation's COVID-19 response.
The country started easing its restrictions as part of a gradual return to normal life in early November and has since seen the number of new daily infections hover between 3-thousand and 4-thousand while the number of critically ill has topped 60.
"We cannot let the difficult start we've had in the gradual return to normal life lead to a retreat to the past. The key to the special measures is vaccination. It has become clear that high efficacy can be maintained only after the third shot. We must now acknowledge that the third shot is no longer an additional dose, but a requirement for full vaccination."
That said, the government will expand eligibility for booster shots to those aged 18 to 49 who've been fully vaccinated for at least five months.
Reservations start later this week.
And while schools will stay open nationwide, the government will be focusing on vaccinating more students and later lower the age to 12 years after taking into account what's been done in other countries.
In response to the shortage of hospital beds in the capital area, all those infected will be allowed to recover at home under thorough monitoring, with the exception of serious cases.
"Once infected, the patient will undergo a checkup at a medical institution and receive a kit for homecare, such as a thermometer and oxygen saturation tester. We will also consider more financial aid, given the added burden. We are also working to secure an additional 2,000 hospital beds in the metropolitan area to prepare for a surge of patients that require hospitalization."
The government added that further discussions will be held on potentially cutting down personal gatherings or applying new restrictions to cafes or restaurants, in consideration of the impact on the economy and inconvenience caused to people's daily lives.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.