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Coronavirus: South Korea removes outdoor mask mandate

May 26, 2021

South Korea said those who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors. Follow DW for the latest.

A woman in a face shield and mask waits to cross a street, amid the spread of the coronavirus
South Koreans who've gotten at least one dose won't be required to wear masks outdoorsImage: Reuters/K. Hong-Ji

South Koreans who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors, the government announced on Wednesday. 

In a COVID response meeting, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said people who have received at least one dose will also be able to get together in large gatherings from June. Quarantine measures will be revisited in October, he added.

The country is trying to encourage older residents in particular to get vaccinated, as it aims to inoculate at least 70% of its 52 million population by September — a large jump from the current 7.7% who have gotten at least one jab.

More than 60% of people aged between 60 and 74 have signed up for a vaccine appointment.

Here's a roundup of other major developments around the world.


With less than two months to go, public opinion in Japan has been growing against holding the Tokyo Olympics, which were already postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic. 

The Asahi Shimbun, a major newspaper, on Wednesday called for the Olympics to be canceled. Some local newspapers have already called for cancellation of the games.

"Distrust and backlash against the reckless national government, Tokyo government and stakeholders in the Olympics are nothing but escalating. We demand Prime Minister Suga to calmly evaluate the circumstances and decide the cancellation of the summer event," read the newspaper's editorial.

Opposition to the games is growing, as only a small percentage of people in Japan have been vaccinated. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other stakeholders have shown no signs of canceling the event. 

Pakistan has opened up its coronavirus vaccination campaign to people over the age of 19.

The country has been struggling with vaccine supply shortages as it seeks to inoculate its population. But it has now secured millions of new doses thanks to purchases and donations from China, and allocations from the World Health Organization and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance.

"So now registration will be open for the entire national population which is approved by health experts for COVID vaccination," Asad Umar, minister in-charge of supervising anti-COVID operations, said on Twitter.

Pakistan has so far administered 5.3 million shots with supplies from AstraZeneca, and the Chinese companies Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSinbio.

Thailand reported 41 deaths on Wednesday, a daily record for the nation. The total number of fatalities is now 873, and the total number of cases 137,894, since the beginning of the pandemic.

Health officials are struggling with vaccine hesitancy, as the country tries to ramp up its inoculation drive

Sri Lanka said it has received 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine as a donation from China. The South Asian island nation is struggling with a shortage, after neighbor India failed to provide the promised AstraZeneca vaccine stock.

The Sri Lankan government has also agreed to buy 14 million doses of Sinopharm from China. 


Australia's second biggest city Melbourne is scrambling to contain a potential outbreak after an infected football spectator attended a match with more than 23,000 other people.

Fears over the potential spread of the virus arose following a match between Collingwood and Port Adelaide.

Thousands of Australian Rules football fans who sat near the infected spectator were told to isolate and get tested. 

The Australian state of Victoria is also on alert, as the number of cases has grown to 15 in three days. Authorities said the next 24 hours were particularly critical, as some of those infected had visited crowded areas. 


With dropping cases and a rising number of people who have been vaccinated, the US state of Hawaii dropped its requirement for people to wear masks outdoors, said Governor David Ige. However, people will still need to follow the mask mandate indoors.

About 57% of the US state's population has received at least one dose. Hawaii is set to allow ocean sports competitions like surfing contests and canoe paddling races from June.


Germany reported 2,626 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, according to data released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The death toll rose by 270 to 87,726. 

The coronavirus infection rate also fell below 50 per 100,000 people for the first time since October. The RKI said it was now at 46.8, although officials warned that was partly due to a bank holiday on Monday that reduced the number of cases recorded. 

Belgium has suspended the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine for people under the age of 41 after a woman who received the shot died from severe side effects.

The government said it was seeking urgent advice from the EU's drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) before making a decision on whether to lift the suspension.

Belgium had been using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one jab to be effective, for elderly with reduced mobility and the homeless. The government said the woman had been vaccinated through her foreign employer, and was taken to hospital after developing "serious thrombosis and reduced blood platelets.''

France steps up vaccination drive

France's government says it will impose a mandatory quarantine on travelers from Britain to prevent the spread of a virus variant first detected in India.

Germany introduced a similar measure on Sunday, requiring visitors from the UK to go into isolation for 14 days. Under the German rules, airlines are only able to transport German citizens and residents from Britain.

Slovakia has become the second European Union member state to approve use of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

Slovakia has 200,000 doses of Sputnik V, but had not been allowed to use it until now. Hungary is the only other EU country to use the Russia-developed shot, which has not been cleared by the EMA.


Conflicts around the world made it more difficult to contain the pandemic and provide humanitarian aid, said United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock. 

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called for global efforts to put armed conflict in lockdown.

But many major conflicts didn't stop, while new and deadly ones emerged, including the conflict in Ethiopiaand fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"By the end of 2020, nearly 100 million people faced crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity as a result of conflict. That was up from 77 million the year before," said Lowcock in a virtual UN Security Council meeting.

nm,tg/rs (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)