Asia Today: South Korea to require masks on transit, flights

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A public tv screen shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking at a press conference Monday, May 25, 2020, in Tokyo. Abe announced the lift of a coronavirus state of emergency from Tokyo and four other remaining prefectures. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

BANGKOK – South Koreans will be required to wear masks when using public transportation and taxis nationwide starting Tuesday as authorities look for more ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus as people increase their public activities.

Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho on Monday said masks will also be required on all domestic and international flights from Wednesday. From 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 they can 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 tracking and testing. But infections have been rising slightly since early May, with more people going out during warmer weather and eased social distancing guidelines, causing concern in a country that has just started to reopen schools.

“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.

South Korea has reported 11,206 COVID-19 cases, including 267 fatalities.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— WUHAN CONDUCTS MASSIVE TESTING: The Chinese city of Wuhan has conducted more than 6.5 million coronavirus tests over a 10-day period in a bid to test all its 11 million residents, state media said Monday. The city’s health commission, in a post on its website, asked anyone who hasn’t been tested to come forward by the end of Tuesday. One new COVID-19 case has been confirmed since the 10-day campaign started, and some people with no symptoms also tested positive. More than 3 million people had been tested prior to the campaign, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Wuhan, where the global pandemic is believed to have started late last year, was by far the city hit hardest in China.