• Kyodo

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South Korea’s health authorities said Wednesday that people who have received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine will be allowed to go outdoors without wearing masks from July, as part of plans to incentivize mass vaccination.

The country’s Health and Welfare Ministry said the incentives also include exempting those who received at least one dose from a ban on gatherings of more than eight direct family members from June. For those who received two doses, a ban on get-togethers of five people and more will be lifted from July.

The easing of the rules came ahead of the start of vaccinations for the general public, starting with people age 65 or over, on Thursday.

Around 60% of people in the age group have reserved their vaccination appointments, according to the authorities. But many people are hesitant to get vaccinated as they worry about the side effects of the vaccine developed by Britain’s AstraZeneca Plc, following reports of blood clots in people who received it, local media reported.

The health authorities also plan to carry out revised social distancing rules from July, which allow people to join private gatherings and religious activities without restrictions, after about 25% of the whole population receive their first doses.

The revised rules will be based on individuals’ autonomy and sense of responsibility, according to the authorities.

The social distancing rules could be eased further after late September, when the government aims to complete vaccination of the first dose for over 70% of its 52 million population, the health authorities added.

The nation is aiming to achieve herd immunity by November.

South Korea reported 707 new cases of coronavirus infection over the 24-hour period on Wednesday, marking a spike from 516 on Tuesday.

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