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S. Korea to make changes to virus response, as cases double in less than a week
Updated: 2022-01-24 06:19:52 KST
South Korea saw 7-thousand COVID-19 cases over the weekend and reported the highest tally ever for a Sunday.
Monday is expected to be another day close to 7-thousand.
Starting this week, health authorities are pivoting toward a new virus response, one that attempts to better cope with Omicron.

For more COVID-19 updates, we have our reporter Kim Yeon-seung in the studio with us.

Good morning

So Yeon-seung last time we met you in the studio, you reported that experts expect the nation to reach 7-thousand cases.
And that happened this weekend, right?

Yes, that's right.
South Korea saw 7, and 8 infections on Saturday and topped 7-thousand daily cases for the first time in a month.
And then on Sunday,.. numbers soared even higher to 7, 630, which is the second highest figure to be reported, and the highest tally seen on a Sunday.
If you look at the trend for the past week, you can see that just last Monday, the country reported fewer than 4-thousand cases.
So in less than a week, daily infections have nearly doubled.

We hear South Korea see another day of 7-thousand cases on Monday

Well, that is a possibility.
South Korea, up to Sunday 9PM logged 5,675 new cases.
This is around 1-thousand cases fewer than the same time Saturday night, but when the total tally is rounded up it might just get close to the 7-thousand mark.

So with the wave of Omicron coming, health authorities have shifted prevention measures.
Several changes are coming this week is that right?

That's right Mok-yeon.
COVID-19 has been with us for a while now, so health authorities are really working to counter the inconvenience and inefficiency that certain measures hold.
For example, starting from today, people who were hospitalized or experienced adverse heath side effects up to 6 weeks after inoculation will be eligible to get a vaccine pass waiver.
They don't need to prove causality between the vaccinations and their adverse symptoms.
They just need to show that they had side effects at a local health clinic, and they'll get a waiver on their mobile COOV or QR code apps.

What other changes are being made this week?

Well starting from Wednesday, South Korea will start phasing into a new Omicron-tailored prevention response.
The isolation period for fully vaccinated patients will be shortened to a week from 10 days.
Also beginning in regions that have seen alarming spreads of Omicron, namely Gwangju, Jeollanam-do province, Pyeongtaek city and Anseong city in Gyeonggi-do province, health authorities are trialing a new virus response system.
Under this new system, COVID-19 testing centers will test only high-risk groups and suspected infections with a PCR test.
Everyone else will have to test themselves using rapid antigen test kits.
This will shorten the lines and speed up the process at testing centers.
In these areas local doctors and health clinics will also participate in testing and treating COVID patients, so that infected patients don't completely overwhelm the few, selected COVID-19 clinics.
Also starting in Anseong city from Monday, local COVID-19 patients will be managed locally.
It used to be the central government that decided where covid patients would be treated, but Anseong city officials will now determine that on a local scale.

How will these measures help?

Well the main concern that health authorities have regarding Omicron has been that, although the variant has been linked with mild symptoms, considering how rapidly the virus spreads, the sheer volume of infections could overwhelm the entire medical sector.
This measure will spread any burden across local doctors and allocate the limited medical resources efficiently to benefit high-risk groups of people.

And what about preparations ahead of the Lunar New Year, which starts this weekend.

Well, even during this holiday, there are going to be people who won't be able to rest, and they are frontline medical workers.
Because Seoul city on Sunday said that they're going to keep the doors open at testing centers, infectious diseases hospitals, and residential treatment centers.
There's also going to be a hotline in place for emergency patients.
Seoul city is also expanding transportation during the holiday, so that people can leave Seoul on less-crowded buses.

Ok Yeon-seung.
Thank you for that report.

Reporter : winning@arirang.com