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(LEAD) COVID-19 antiviral pills to arrive in S. Korea next week: PM

All News 09:21 January 07, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS more info from 5th para)
By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) -- Antiviral COVID-19 pills will arrive in South Korea next week, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Friday.

"We will make sure they can be used swiftly in the medical field," Kim said during a COVID-19 response meeting in Seoul.

The government has so far secured oral COVID-19 drugs for around 1 million patients.

The country signed a prepurchase contract with U.S. drug giant Pfizer Inc. for its Paxlovid pill for 762,000 patients. It also inked a deal with MSD, a subsidiary of U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co., for the prepurchase of oral coronavirus medications for 242,000 people.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum speaks at a COVID-19 response meeting in Seoul on Jan. 7, 2022. (Yonhap)

The first shipment of COVID-19 pills is expected to arrive around Thursday. The government will announce its plan on imported oral virus treatments in detail next week.

To cope with the fast spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, Kim called for an overhaul of the medical response system in terms of pace and efficiency.

He said health authorities will set priorities on people subject for virus diagnostic tests, so that those who have higher risk of infections can be checked quickly with polymerase chain reaction tests.

Kim also requested a court to make a quick decision on the vaccine pass system, which requires proof of vaccination or negative test results when visitors enter certain facilities.

On Tuesday, the country suspended the vaccine pass mandate for cram schools and other private education facilities following a court ruling that the system infringes on people's right to learn.

The government has said it will appeal the decision, saying the vaccine pass is crucial to protecting unvaccinated patients and for the country's medical response system.

"I understand it is a process of social discussion to find balance between virus prevention and human rights," Kim said. "If it needs improvement, the government will do it with an open mind. But if this confusion and conflict are prolonged, it is people who will be hurt."

kdon@yna.co.kr
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