More than 70 percent of South Korea's population is now fully vaccinated, and so the authorities have laid out a blueprint for moving on to a gradual return to normal life a plan called "Living with COVID-19."
There's been a lot of worry and anticipation about what will change.
To fill us in with the details, we have our COVID-19 correspondent in the studio with us.
Thank you for having me.
So let's start with the basics.
What does the "Living with COVID-19" plan look like?
Right, Connyoung. So this might strike a lot of people as good news, having lived with these strict distancing rules for so long.
Officials are going to start by ending the restrictions on business hours for cafes and restaurants starting from November 1st.
Also the limit on the size of social gatherings will be raised to 10 people, regardless of where you are in the country.
At restaurants and cafes, however, parties of ten have to include at least four people who are fully vaccinated.
But there are three phases to the plan, stretching into next January.
Take a look at this graphic for a better understanding.
The first phase is going to start by easing restrictions on small and local businesses, which will start November first.
The second phase will allow larger events.
The next and final stage will be to lift the caps on all social gatherings.
Before moving on to each stage, there's going to be a four-week trial period and a two-week assessment period, where they look at the number of critical cases, deaths and the scale of the outbreak to determine whether it's appropriate to move onto the next stage.
If all goes as planned, we might see an end to all the restrictions by late January.
Right then let's delve into the details about the stage one. since that's starting in just a week.
You mentioned that health officials are lifting the restrictions on business hours for cafes and restaurants.
But there are some places deemed higher risk that'll still have some extra precautions.
Right. Officials are taking a different approach to each type of business.
So for places categorized as high-risk, like singing rooms, gyms, public baths and nightclubs, you will need proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test.
But a lot of ordinary pubs, for example they're classified as restaurants, and so like other places, you won't need a vaccine pass, and there won't be limits on their operating hours.
Nightclubs, though, are one type of business that still has to close at midnight on top of needing a vaccine pass.
As you can imagine, most business owners are glad about the changes.
I've got a chance to talk with a few of them earlier, and here's what they said.
"Cafes and restaurant owners are welcoming the end of limits on their business hours. But some people running entertainment facilities aren't thrilled about the midnight limit. Overall, though, they're happy."
"A lot of people who run singing rooms and gyms say the vaccine pass isn't fair. Why can only fully vaccinated people use our establishments, when pubs can have people who are unvaccinated?"
Then what about the frontline healthcare workers? They've been right in the middle of the pandemic this whole time. How do they feel about "Living With COVID-19"?
Well, of course there's been concern about a spike in infections, and many experts do think this will inevitably happen.
But even so, they say this is a step in the right direction.
In the "Living with COVID-19" plan, the health authorities are also going to let more people who've caught the virus recover at home to reduce the burden on medical staff.
This means people with mild symptoms won't have to go to special care facilities.
It occurred to me that this could come with its own risks.
So I asked an expert what he thinks about the issue.
"It's true that this approach could be somewhat riskier. But if there's a surge in cases, we will not be able to handle it with our current system. This is a critical element that we need before we head into "Living with COVID-19."
Right well thank you for that report,.. and if there's any updates be sure to fill us in with the rest.