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(LEAD) S. Korea to introduce more oral COVID-19 pills this year amid new wave woes

All News 14:04 November 09, 2022

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with new antivirus steps; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will secure oral COVID-19 treatment pills ahead of schedule and beef up monitoring of vulnerable groups, as it is bracing for another wave of COVID-19 that could peak in December, health authorities said.

The new wave is forecast to bring the number of daily infections to as high as 200,000, a similar level to the previous one seen in summer, and to reach the peak in December or thereafter in line with the arrival of variants, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The previous virus wave, triggered by the omicron variant spread, dwindled after peaking at around 180,000 cases a day in mid-August.

"Based on experiences, the authorities will continue to deal with the situation within maximizing current quarantine and medical capabilities. We will not enforce universal social distancing rules," the KDCA said.

As antivirus measures, the government will bring in Pfizer's Paxlovid for 200,000 people next month, which had initially been supposed to be introduced in the first quarter of next year, and push to prescribe the pills to more people.

Regional governments will set up a team to be in charge of supporting the implementation of protection measures at vulnerable facilities across the country. A total of 266 officials are expected to be mobilized for the teams, the KDCA said.

The seven-day mandatory quarantine for people infected with the virus and indoor mask mandates will also be in place "until the virus situation becomes stabilized," the KDCA said, vowing to beef up the monitoring of new variants and run an integrated system to check viruses linked to respiratory diseases.

A medical worker holds up a vial of a vaccine at a public facility in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2022. (Yonhap)

A medical worker holds up a vial of a vaccine at a public facility in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2022. (Yonhap)

On Wednesday, the country reported 62,472 new COVID-19 infections, including 42 from overseas, which is the largest daily count since Sept. 15, when the country reported 71,444 infections.

It also added 59 deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 29,479. The fatality rate was 0.11 percent.

The number of critically ill patients stood at 336, down 24 from a day earlier, the KDCA said.

"New infections have shown an uptrend for four weeks in a row, and the reproduction rate surpassed 1 for three consecutive weeks, indicating that the winter resurgence has begun in earnest," Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said.

The reproduction rate represents new infections estimated to stem from a single case.

"In preparations for the new wave, the government will strive to further expand the vaccination campaign and medication programs, particularly for vulnerable groups," he added.

Adding to woes is a possible outbreak of a "twindemic" of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza.

The government is expected to announce a set of antivirus measures later in the day. On Monday, the government expanded bivalent booster shots to all adults aged over 18.


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