SEOUL (BLOOMBERG, THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korea has reached its goal of fully vaccinating more than 70 per cent of its population against the coronavirus, a precondition the government set for an easing of restrictions.
About 35.9 million of the nation's 51.3 million residents had been fully vaccinated as at 2pm on Saturday (Oct 23), the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a statement.
The government had targeted a 70 per cent vaccination rate for it to ease anti-virus restrictions.
Asia Business Daily reported earlier that the government may begin easing rules from around Nov 9, after it has fully vaccinated 70 per cent of the population.
South Korea is considering lifting restrictions on operating hours for restaurants and coffee shops from early next month, a Health Ministry official said on Friday, adding that a detailed plan will be announced on Oct 29.
The achievement comes as the country is set to gradually phase out Covid-19 restrictions starting next month, joining a list of countries embracing a new scheme of returning to normal life with the coronavirus.
The scheme, dubbed "Living with Covid-19", will mean that Covid-19 will be treated as an infectious respiratory disease, like seasonal influenza, with social distancing measures gradually eased.
The authorities expect vaccinations will further pick up steam to get 85 per cent of all South Koreans and foreigners living in South Korea fully inoculated by early next year.
Hitting that mark is expected to create the so-called herd immunity, where a large portion of the population becomes immune to a certain type of disease, making the spread of the disease from person to person unlikely.
Currently, the restrictions on private gatherings have been lifted to allow up to eight people in the greater Seoul area, provided that four of them are fully vaccinated. A maximum of 10 people, including six who are fully vaccinated, are allowed in other regions.
The eased rules will apply until the end of this month in what the authorities said would be the last adjustment of social distancing.
South Korea reported 1,508 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, the KDCA said. The total caseload stood at 350,476.