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S. Korean Gov't announces new virus response ahead of expected Omicron surge Updated: 2022-01-21 08:29:02 KST

South Korea reported 6,769 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
It's just below 7-thousand, but with Omicron spreading rapidly, health authorities are expecting another surge.
To be as prepared as they can, they've announced a new virus response plan.
Our COVID-19 correspondent Kim Yeon-seung is on the line to tell us more.

Yeon-seung, what does the new plan entail?

The plan focuses on maximum efficiency and speed.
The government is bringing local doctors and health clinics on board to participate in testing and treatment.
They're trying out this system in some of the regions that are seeing widespread outbreaks of Omicron,.. and will expand this measure nationwide, if it proves to be a success.
They'll also have antigen self-tests at COVID-19 testing centers.
This will shorten the line at test centers and PCR tests will be used for high-risk groups.
Authorities are also strengthening border controls.
They'll enforce testing and isolation more strictly for arrivals.

And authorities will also broaden the use of COVID-19 treatments?

Yes, Pfizer's oral treatment, Paxlovid, has been cleared for use for people aged 60 and over.
They've brought the age of those being given the drug down from 65 to 60, so that more people can be treated with this easy to administer pill.
Paxlovid will also be sent to a South Korean military unit deployed in United Arab Emirates because two soldiers have been confirmed as having COVID-19.
Another covid treatment, Remdisivir, will be expanded for use.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety granted emergency use of Remdesivir, which is an antiviral medication to patients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.
This intravenous treatment used to be administered to critically-ill patients only.
But health authorities widened the use to prevent mild cases developing into severe illnesses.
They felt confident enough to make this change after reviewing results of clinical trials and by looking at the precedent set in Europe.
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