SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Korea Bizwire) – The planned expansion of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine pass system to include 12- to 18-year-olds will be implemented in March as scheduled, a government agency said Monday, despite a Seoul court’s recent decisions to rein in the vaccine pass mandate at educational facilities.
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters said the government will stick to its policy of enforcing the youth vaccine pass program beginning March 1, citing a high percentage of teenagers among new daily COVID-19 cases.
Since November, South Koreans over 18 have been required to present a vaccine pass or a negative PCR test conducted within the previous 48 hours to enter various multiuse facilities.
But the Seoul Administrative Court suspended the vaccine pass mandate for cram schools, public study rooms and study cafes, responding on Jan. 4 to a petition for a preliminary injunction.
Moreover, the same court on Friday again ordered that vaccine pass requirements be halted for minors aged 12-18 at all facilities in Seoul, pending the outcome of a main lawsuit filed last month by opponents of the vaccine pass enforcement.
The court said the mandate is unreasonable because of uncertainties about adverse reactions and long-term effects of vaccinations on teenagers.
Watchers say uncertainties are expected to continue for the time being, as restaurants, cafes, internet cafes and karaoke centers, which are all frequented by teenagers, will still be subject to the vaccine pass measure and it will take a long time for the administrative court to formally rule on the case.
The central disaster headquarters said the youth vaccine pass program will be inevitable, as the share of teens aged 12 to 18 in the daily new COVID-19 cases has remained above 25 percent amid a slowdown in their vaccination rates.
The agency also said it expects the court to change its verdict in the main lawsuit, as educational facilities have been excluded from the vaccine pass mandate.
As of Monday, 12- to 18-year-olds accounted for 28.8 percent of new daily COVID-19 cases, while their primary vaccination and second dose completion rates reached 78.6 percent and 66.5 percent, respectively.