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SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) — The government will increase the weekly number of international flights to the United States, Europe and other COVID-19 quarantine-free nations by 100 flights every month starting in May in line with growing demand for overseas travel, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said Wednesday.
The country’s COVID-19 wave has been on the downturn for the third week in a row, and demand for overseas travel is expected to go up as foreign nations are gradually lifting quarantine requirements after passing their omicron infection peaks, the minister said during a government coronavirus response meeting.
“Ending its 10-week ascent, the (daily) infection tally has been on the decline for a third consecutive week,” Jeon said. “The average daily infections over the past week came to some 270,000, about 30 percent less than the previous week.”
To meet an expected increase in demand for overseas travel, “the weekly frequency of international flights to quarantine-free and visa-free countries, such as America, Europe, Thailand and Singapore, will be expanded by 100 flights every month, starting next month,” he said.
From July, the rate of expansion will be further increased to 300 flights every month, he also added.
Currently, the number of international flights is 420 per week, which amounts to 8.9 percent of the pre-pandemic level.
The planned increase is expected to raise the number to around 50 percent of that in 2019, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
Demand for overseas travel is expected to recover to about 83 percent of the level seen before the pandemic across the globe and 40 percent for the Asian market, the ministry added.
The minister said the government will also normalize international flight services at regional airports, adding Muan, Cheongju and Jeju International Airport could resume international routes next month while other regional airports will follow suit down the road.
The transport ministry said it plans to normalize all flight-related policies when the pandemic reaches an endemic phase, which will be around October.
The country’s COVID-19 reproduction rate has fallen to 0.91 for the week ending Saturday while the hospital bed occupancy rate for seriously ill patients is being stably managed at around 60 percent, the minister said.