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S. Korean gov't announces new virus response plan ahead of expected Omicron surge Updated: 2022-01-21 17:03:44 KST

With an Omicron surge coming up, South Korea is getting prepared.
Omicron now makes up close to half of the domestic caseload.

"The Omicron made up 47.1 percent of cases this week. We expect it to become the dominant strain next week."

To ramp up testing, the government will make rapid antigen self-test kits available free of charge at COVID-19 screening centers.

"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."

Isolation for confirmed patients will be shortened from 10 days to just a week.
The government is also mobilizing local clinics for testing and treatment.
All these changes will first be applied on a trial basis. in regions that are witnessing an alarming spread of Omicron.

"We're going to reform the systems in Gwangju, Jeollanam-do Province, Pyeongtaek, and Anseong first.
It'll start next Wednesday, January 26th for these four regions."

Meanwhile, as of Thursday only 109 people had received Pfizer's oral treatment, Paxlovid since rollouts began last week.
This is far short of the government's initial goal, of prescribing the pill to 1-thousand people a day.
So authorities are ramping up Paxlovid's use nationwide.

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

Another change is coming, in regards to funerals.
Previously, infected patients had to be completely isolated from their loved ones after death and had to be immediately cremated.
But as health authorities found no cases of infection from dead bodies, they'll be allowing funerals before the cremation.
Kim Yeon-seung, Arirang News

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