|People wait to see if they show any abnormal reactions after receiving COVID-19 vaccine shots at a vaccination center in Seoul's Mapo District, Tuesday. Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
Following the government's announcement of plans to shift to a "Living with COVID-19" phase on Nov. 1, controversy is rising over possible discrimination against unvaccinated people, as the plans included the introduction of a so-called "vaccine pass," which would restrict their access to some multiuse facilities such as gyms.
On Monday, a government-led committee, tasked with discussing measures to achieve a return to "normal life" through a gradual phasing out of coronavirus restrictions, announced that the vaccine pass policy would require people to present vaccination certificates or, if unvaccinated, negative PCR test results to enter entertainment establishments, indoor sports facilities, public baths and casinos.
The government explained that the policy is aimed at supporting a return to normal life and protecting unvaccinated people, but the announcement is inviting concerns that the policy could cause discrimination.
Those who have yet to be vaccinated are required to present a negative PCR test result to enter those facilities, starting from next Monday when the policy will take effect.
The negative test result is valid for only about two days, meaning that an unvaccinated person who uses a gym everyday needs to go through COVID-19 testing about three times a week.
"I hold an annual membership for a gym, but I am thinking about getting a refund because I don't want to go through COVID-19 testing that often," an internet user wrote on Naver's news section.
Another user wrote, "The government initially said that whether to receive vaccine shots or not would be a matter of personal choice, but it is pressuring people to get vaccinated by implementing such an unfair policy."
Concerns are also abounding among owners of those facilities. One user of an online community at which owners of indoor sports facilities gather wrote, "The government's policy would lead an increasing number of members to apply to cancel their membership."
Amid growing controversy, the government said it will exclude young children under the age of 11, who have yet to be given the opportunity to get vaccinated, and adolescents under the age of 18, whose vaccinations require parental approval, from the vaccine pass policy.
Those who are unable to get vaccinated due to health problems will also be excluded from the policy.
|Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum speaks during a government meeting on COVID-19 responses at the Government Complex in Sejong City, Tuesday. Yonhap|
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during a government meeting on COVID-19 responses Tuesday that the government was aware of growing concerns over the vaccine pass policy.
"The policy should not discriminate against anybody. We will listen to various opinions and operate a balanced policy," he said.
The "Living with COVID-19" measures are aimed at easing social distancing measures and focusing more on managing critically ill patients rather than all infections. The government's decision to implement such measures was backed by the rising rate of vaccinations.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, 70.9 percent of the entire population here have been fully vaccinated as of Monday.