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Virus test centers, hospitals jammed amid post-holiday omicron spread

National 15:51 February 03, 2022

SEOUL, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) -- Long lines formed at COVID-19 testing centers and clinics in Seoul on Thursday as larger than usual numbers of people sought to undergo testing on the first day after the five-day Lunar New Year holiday.

Test centers at Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall and Seoul Station both were seen with lines of approximately 100 and 120 people, respectively, waiting to be tested in the morning.

"Our family came voluntarily even without the recommendation from our local health center for testing," a 50-year-old woman surnamed Choi told Yonhap News Agency.

Many medical workers at test centers were also busy explaining to people the new testing scheme introduced Thursday, in which previous polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are administered only to those who test positive in a preliminary rapid antigen test.

"We're seeing a lot of tests by people concerned of having contracted the virus during the holiday. The line for the rapid antigen testing is much longer than that of the PCR test line," Yoon Yeo-sun, a worker at the Seoul Station screening center, said.

She said the Seoul Station center plans to add more workers due to the expected increase in test-takers.

People form a long line to take tests at a COVID-19 testing station in Seoul on Feb. 3, 2022, when the country reported 22,907 new cases. (Yonhap)

People form a long line to take tests at a COVID-19 testing station in Seoul on Feb. 3, 2022, when the country reported 22,907 new cases. (Yonhap)

Neighborhood clinics and respiratory hospitals, which also started offering coronavirus tests and treatments for at-home care patients Thursday under the new virus response scheme, were also swarmed with visitors.

An employee at a clinic in Songpa Ward, southeastern Seoul, was seen responding to a flood of non-stop inquiry calls, telling callers they would have to wait for about two hours to be tested if they were to arrive at that moment.

"I didn't expect this many people to be waiting at the hospital," a 52-year-old office worker, surnamed Sohn, said.

"It's convenient that I no longer have to travel all the way to the Jamsil Sports Complex to be tested, but the fact that PCR test results are now only valid for 24 hours will also likely create more hassle for me," he added.

Some at-home care patients, meanwhile, express frustration over what they perceived as a lack of clear guidelines.

Lee Se-woong, a 19-year-old patient in Gimpo, west of Seoul, said he decided to increase the period of voluntary isolation despite being told that he was free from mandatory quarantine.

"I was notified (by the health center) that I was free from quarantine even without being seen by a doctor," he said. "I'm in an additional voluntary quarantine just to make sure."


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