SOUTH KOREA,HONG KONG,US: South Korea will temporarily lift a requirement for vaccine passes or negative Covid-19 tests at a number of businesses to ease the strain on testing centres, authorities said on Monday, as the country faces a wave of Omicron infections.
The move will allow public testing and health facilities to devote more resources to battling the wave of new cases, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol told a COVID-19 response meeting.
Officials also said they would shelve plans to require vaccine passes for children aged 12-18, citing controversy and court cases over the measures, Yonhap news agency reported.
In recent weeks South Korea has reported average daily per-capita infection rates that have exceeded some of the peaks in hard-hit countries such as the United States and Britain.
Hong Kongers stripped supermarket shelves bare Tuesday as panic buying set in following mixed messaging from the Government over whether it plans a lockdown this month.
Uncertainty over COVID rules has sent the city’s residents flocking to supermarkets, chemists and vegetable stores to stock up, leaving shelves empty across the city.
Photos circulating on social media showed people had trouble finding a variety of items including meat, vegetables, frozen foods, noodles, paracetamol and testing kits.
The financial hub is currently in the grips of its worst coronavirus outbreak, registering tens of thousands of new cases each day, overwhelming hospitals and shattering the city’s zero-COVID strategy.
Authorities plan to test all 7.4 million residents this month and isolate all infections either at home or in a series of camps that are still being constructed with the help of mainland China.
City leader Carrie Lam had initially ruled out a mainland style lockdown where people are confined to their homes during the testing period.
Meanwhile, the White House told federal agencies late on Monday they can drop COVID-19 requirements that employees and visitors wear masks in federal buildings in much of the country, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The White House-led Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said in new guidance that the mask requirement could be ended by federal facilities in counties with low or medium COVID-19 community levels, regardless of vaccination status. About 70% of U.S. counties covering 72% of the U.S. population are listed as having low or medium levels. The White House directed agencies to revise federal employee masking and testing rules no later than March 4, according to the previously unreported document.
The new guidance covers about 3.5 million employees at federal agencies.
The District of Columbia, which is home to the headquarters of most federal agencies, as well as nearby suburbs of Virginia and Maryland, which are home to the Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency and many federal public health and other agencies, are all listed as having low COVID-19 community levels.
– JAPAN TODAY,
THE HINDUSTAN TIMES