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Coronavirus

SKoreans Will Be Required to Wear Masks when Using Public Transportation and Taxis Beginning Tuesday

SEOUL, South Korea — South Koreans will be required to wear masks when using public transportation and taxis beginning Tuesday, as health authorities look for more ways to slow coronavirus transmissions amid an increase in public activity.

Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho, during a virus briefing on Monday, said masks also will be enforced on all domestic and international flights starting Wednesday. Beginning in June, owners of “high-risk” facilities such as bars, clubs, gyms, karaoke rooms and concert halls will be required to use smartphone QR codes to register customers so that they could be tracked down more easily when infections occur.

South Korea was reporting 500 new cases per day in early March before it largely stabilized its outbreak with aggressive track and testing. But infections have been gradually rising again since early May, with more people going out amid warmer weathers and eased social distancing guidelines, causing concern in a country that has just started to reopen schools for children.

“Until treatments and vaccines are developed, we will never know when the COVID-19 crisis could end, and until then we will have to learn how to live with COVID-19,” Yoon said.

It will be up to bus drivers and subway station workers to enforce masks on public transportation, while taxi drivers will be allowed to refuse passengers who aren’t wearing masks. Customers who refuse downloading QR codes at entertainment venues will have to handwrite their personal information instead.

South Korea has so far reported 11,206 COVID-19 cases, including 267 fatalities. The recent increase in infections have centered around the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where more than 200 cases were linked to nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

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