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S. Korean gov't announces new virus response plan ahead of expected Omicron surge
Updated: 2022-01-21 11:42:55 KST
Right Soa as always thank you for the global tallies.
HEALTH PUNDITS believe OMICRON will DOMINATE local infections in the days ahead.
I have Kim Yeon-seung in the studio with more on that outlook.
Welcome Yeon-seung.

Thank you for having me.

Let's begin with the implications of an OMICRON ONSLAUGHT on our daily tallies.

Well, it's not looking good.
In a month's time, numbers could spike to between 10-thousand and 15-thousand a day if the country fails to contain the virus soon.
With Korea marking Seollal or Lunar New Year just over a week from now, health authorities are bracing for a potential holiday surge, fueled by large family gatherings and cross-country travel.
Seollal is also expected to be a busy time for businesses, but many of them will be missing out on key sales opportunities with all the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
The government has earmarked 14 trillion Korean won or 11 billion U.S. dollars to help business owners navigate the rough waters ahead.
This budget, which is awaiting a floor vote on the National Assembly includes cash handouts of 25-hundred U.S. dollars to each business owner.

Now throughout this week you've been talking about the OMICRON-tailored response strategy Yeon-seung?

Well, with the anticipated surge of Omicron cases, health authorities need to find the right answers to three pressing questions.
These are namely, how they are going to speed up testing, maximize treatment using limited medical resources, and prevent imported cases.

Right and on this Friday authorities shared their intentions to those ends right?

Right. To ramp up testing, the government will make rapid antigen self-test kits available free of charge at COVID-19 screening centers.
Let's take a listen to Prime Minister Kim boo-kyum on the rationale behind this decision.

"PCR tests will be for high-risk groups only, so that'll speed up the process. Standing in long lines in this cold weather to get tested will become less frequent."

The government is also mobilizing local clinics for testing and treatment.
These changes will first be applied on a trial basis. in regions that are witnessing an alarming spread of Omicron.
These measures will then be adopted nationwide if they proves to be a success.

Which regions will that include?

They will include the city of Gwangju and Jeollanam-do province first of all, where the majority of recent cases there have been linked to the Omicron variant.
Omicron is also spreading quickly in the southern region of Gyeonggi-do province, namely the cities of Pyeongtaek and Anseong.
The new testing and treatment measures will also be rolled out in these areas as well.

What about border controls Yeon-seung?

Health authorities are strengthening their border controls.
On top of the PCR tests that all arrivals have to go through, rapid antigen testing will also be required, to minimize the possibility of imported cases leading to a community-level outbreak.
Strict isolation rules will also apply, quarantine exemptions will only be granted on a very limited basis.

I hear authorities are also looking to EXPAND the USE of PAXLOVID?

Yes, well Pfizer's oral treatment, Paxlovid, has been cleared for use in people aged 60 and over.
Let's take a listen to Prime Minister Kim from this morning for more details.

"We bring down the minimum age of drug administration from 65 to 60, and expand its use in nursing homes, care hospitals, and infection diseases hospitals.

Up until Thursday, only 109 people had received the pill since rollouts began last Friday.
This is far short of the government's initial goal, of prescribing the pill to 1-thousand people a day from their stock of 21-thousand courses.
So with this latest move, authorities are really trying to ramp up the use of these COVID-19 pills.

And what's the latest with regard to other options of treatment?

Well Sunny the anti-viral treatment Remdisivir, will also be expanded in use.
On Friday, Korea's drug regulator approved the use of Remdesivir on patients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 as well.
This intravenous drug had been previously used to treat to critically-ill patients only.
But health authorities is broadening it use to prevent mild cases from developing into severe illnesses.
They felt confident enough to make this change after reviewing clinical trial data and also looking at the precedents set in Europe.

All right Yeon-seung thank you for now and do stay for more talks.
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