South Korea tests new virus steps as infections reach new high

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea on Wednesday began implementing new COVID-19 response measures, including reducing quarantine periods and…

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea on Wednesday began implementing new COVID-19 response measures, including reducing quarantine periods and expanding rapid testing, as the number of new cases increased by nearly 50. % in one day.

13,012 new cases, 4,400 more than the previous one-day high of 8,571 cases set on Tuesday. It highlights the rate of transmission due to the highly contagious omicron variant, which became the country’s dominant strain just last week.

South Korean officials say their initial analysis shows that the omicron spreads more than twice as fast as the delta variant, causing hospitalizations and deaths in the country to skyrocket during the winter spike, but are also less likely to cause serious illness or death.

South Korea also has a high vaccination rate. More than 85% of Korea’s more than 51 million people have been fully immunized and more than 50% of the population have received booster shots.

However, there are concerns that the sudden outbreak of infections could spill over into hospitals and cause disruptions to workplaces and essential services by continually placing large numbers of people sick. isolation.

Starting Wednesday, the quarantine period for virus carriers who test positive after being fully vaccinated has been reduced from 10 days to seven days. Fully vaccinated people who come into close contact with a carrier of the virus will no longer be quarantined, but will be required to report their daily health status to health officials before being tested. within six or seven days.

Officials also plan to treat most mild cases at home and reshape the testing regimen to focus on PCR testing, which will now be largely saved for people in their 60s and older, or those have a pre-existing illness. Most people will first be asked to use rapid test kits available at public health offices, testing stations, and pharmacies, and receive PCR when those tests are positive.

The new testing policy was implemented in three cities near the capital Seoul and South Jeolla province on Wednesday, and officials plan to expand the changes nationwide by early February.

Despite the benefits of faster results, officials previously did not want to depend on rapid tests because they are known to be less accurate than PCR tests, which require large numbers of medical professionals to use. nasopharyngeal swabs and high-tech testing machines for sample analysis.

Son Youngrae, a senior official at the Ministry of Health, said it was inevitable that the country would shrink its focus on reducing severe illness and death among high-risk groups. He acknowledged the new approach could lead to “disadvantages in the diagnosis and prevention of infections in low-risk groups.”

“Our current goal is to manage the spread of the virus to a certain extent, so that it doesn’t flare up and create a very large peak, while minimizing severe cases and deaths.” Son said at a press conference. “We want to avoid the foreign experience, where the hospital system collapses or becomes overwhelmed and leads to losses in treating patients who are not using COVID-19.”

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https://wtop.com/asia/2022/01/s-korea-tests-new-virus-steps-as-infections-reach-new-high/ South Korea tests new virus steps as infections reach new high

James Brien

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