The medical community is urging the Korean government to remove indoor mask rules amid eased social distancing and no mandate for outdoor mask wearing. 

On Thursday, doctors in Gwangju have raised their voices calling for the end of mandatory indoor masks.

"There are no more social benefits to be gained from excessive quarantine measures," the Gwangju Medical Association said in a statement. "The government is saying it is not too late to consider lifting indoor mask rules after the winter season, which is when Covid-19 and influenza are likely to spread simultaneously."

However, the prevailing opinion among experts is that the government is implementing excessive regulations that have reduced efficacy, the association said.

According to the provincial doctors' group, major overseas countries are also currently lifting various policies on basic citizens' rights related to Covid-19, such as obligations to wear masks indoors and restrictions on entry.

"Despite the eased rules, there has been no escalation in the number of Covid-19 cases or public confusion," the association said. "Korea is the only country among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that restricts the basic rights of citizens by making them wear masks indoors."

Also, serious violations of the right to health and education of young students continue, the association added.

The association stressed that the government should return to "scientific quarantine" based on medical evidence and ease quarantine rules.

The remark from the Gwangju Medical Association follows a similar recommendation made by Gyeonggi Medical Association on Sept. 27.

Members of the Gyeonggi Medical Association stressed that there is no academic rationality for continuing to enforce indoor masks on children when the government does not restrict gathering in restaurants, cafes, and pubs.

"While major countries such as the U.S. and Europe already lifted the mandatory indoor mask six months ago, there have been no reports of a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases or a breakdown in their quarantine systems," the Gyeonggi Medical Association said.

The public has also given positive feedback regarding the matter, with a survey showing that more than half of Koreans were in favor of lifting the indoor mask mandate.

The survey, conducted by Professor Yoo Myung-soon's team at Seoul National University College of Public Health and Kstat Research, asked the opinions of 1,000 Koreans 18 and older on the indoor mask mandate and found that 55.5 percent of participants approved of lifting indoor mask rules.

Despite the repeated demand to lift indoor masks, the government is still taking a cautious approach and had stressed that it expects to lift the indoor mask mandate by next spring.

"Since we expect another viral wave at least once, we believe that Korea will be able to lift indoor mask mandates by March of next year at the earliest," Second Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Lee Ki-il said during a press briefing on Monday.

On Thursday, Korea added 28,648 new Covid-19 infections, including 82 cases from abroad, bringing the total caseload to 24,911,497, according to the KDCA.

The nation also reported 29 more Covid-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 28,573. The fatality rate stood at 0.11 percent. The number of critically ill patients came to 325, down eight from the previous day.

According to the KDCA, about 44.68 million among 52 million Koreans have been fully vaccinated. In addition, about 33.6 million people had received their first booster shots, and 7.46 million had their second booster shots.

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