South Korea operated some 500 screening centers across the country since February 2020 to establish a frontline against the infectious disease that infected more than 34 million people and killed more than 35,000 people. The centers offered free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for anyone who showed symptoms of the coronavirus.
To normalize people's everyday lives, South Korea lowered the disease classification of COVID-19 to the same level as seasonal flu in June 2023. About 47,000 PCR tests were carried out daily in April 2023 but the number dropped to 8,390 in October. A quarter of screening centers had less than 10 visitors who tested for COVID-19.
South Korea's health authorities said on December 15 that screening centers and isolation wards for COVID-19 patients will be shut down on December 31. However, local state-operated health clinics and hospitals will continue to offer free PCR tests for people who are classified as people vulnerable to infectious diseases.
Starting January 1, 2024, people who wish to receive PCR tests will have to visit nearby clinics and pay for examinations.
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