South Korea has started enforcing a new coronavirus testing policy centered on rapid tests as health officials reported a record number of new infections after the Lunar New Year holiday
The 22,907 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency marked a second consecutive day of more than 20,000 new infections and about five times the daily cases seen in mid-January, when the variant highly contagious omicron has become the country’s dominant variant. stump.
The new testing regime that began on Thursday expands the use of rapid tests and aims to save PCR lab tests for high-risk groups, including people in their 60s and older or those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Some experts have objected to the new policy, saying the rapid tests are not sensitive enough to reliably detect omicron infections and raising concerns that transmissions could worsen if people who return false negative tests continue to venture out in public.
But health officials say the country needs to focus lab testing and other crucial medical resources because of the rapidity of infections caused by the omicron. Authorities are also expanding home-based treatments and have relaxed quarantine periods for virus carriers and people who come into close contact with them, citing concerns about major disruptions to workplaces and essential services if a large many people are constantly quarantined.
While omicron is spreading much faster than previous versions of the virus, hospitalization and death rates have so far been lower than delta-related cases, senior KDCA official Lim Sook said. -young, during a briefing. Patients with the virus in their 60s or older accounted for about 8% of recent infections, she said, possibly reflecting the protection provided by booster shots.
Over 85% of South Korea’s 51 million people have been fully vaccinated and over 53% have received boosters.