South Korea has recorded its largest daily increase in Covid-19 infections in nearly three months at 313 today as it sets to tighten social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area.
It’s the first time the country’s daily caseload exceeded 300 since late August and effective midnight Thursday, the infectious disease guidelines in the greater Metro area will be raised to 1.5 on the five tier system.
Is this the third wave that health experts had been warning about, are we heading into the dark winter months and what do the unexpected breakthrough in vaccine development mean?

Let’s go in-depth.
Joining me live in the studio – to my right, Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women’s Hospital and to my left Dr. David Kwak, Physician at Soonchunhyang University Hospital.

Dr. Tan, Dr. Kwak, welcome both to the show.

(ALICE TAN) Dr. Tan, we’ve been struggling to contain small, cluster infections here and there, but I surely did not expect the daily tally to jump to over 300 today. It was just earlier this week that KDCA chief Dr. Jeong Eun-kyeong warned that the daily infections could reach 3 to 400 in two to four weeks’ time.
Are we heading into a third wave? Are there any noticeable difference in transmission pattern that you’re taking note of?

(DAVID KWAK) Dr. Kwak, how are we doing with hospital beds? The number of patients in severe or critical condition has also risen to over 50 in the past two days prompting health authorities to scramble for more hospital beds.

(ALICE TAN) Dr. Tan, having seen the biggest daily jump in nearly three months today, it makes me wonder is level one.five social distancing enough to bring the case numbers down?
As a medical expert, what do you think? I remember last time we peaked at over 4-hundred, we went to level two point five.

(DAVID KWAK) I want to talk about vaccines. The clinical success that Pfizer and Moderna are reporting was not supposed to happen. The preliminary results for Pfizer with 90 percent efficacy rate and Moderna’s 94.5 percent efficacy rate – compare that with the average influenza vaccine’s 50 percent efficacy. Public-health experts have warned for months that a Covid vaccine might be similarly mediocre, and was therefore unlikely to provide the silver bullet so many hoped for. What happened? How hopeful can we be?

(ALICE TAN) As countries race to secure enough doses to vaccinate their population, the South Korean government said yesterday that they are close to finalizing purchase negotiating with international bodies and pharmaceutical companies and that they will unveil their vaccine purchase timeline later this month.
South Korea has set a goal of vaccinating 30 million people for the coronavirus by next year.
The day Moderna announced its 95 percent efficacy rate for its Covid vaccine candidate, I saw the UK government being slammed by its local media for not having Moderna’s Covid vaccine in one of its five pre-ordered list, BUT in one of the few remaining drugmakers that were still in purchase negotiations with.
Is South Korea behind other countries in securing vaccines?

(DAVID KWAK) Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer said the firm may be within days of filing for an emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine which means if all goes according to plan, vaccinations could begin sometime in December. Pfizer said it will be able to supply the U.S. with enough vaccine in 2020 to vaccinate 20 million people.
Which 20 million people will this be and will this be limited to those in the U.S.?

(ALICE TAN) Back here in this country, in about two weeks from now, 500-thousand high school seniors will take the 9-hour college entrance exam at over 13-hundred exam sites across the nation.
This is known as the once in a lifetime, make or break exam for South Koreans.
Dr. Tan, I’m sure there are many parents and students who are not only nervous about this exam but also worried about virus safety, as well. Is it safe to carry out an exam which requires a group of students to be in an enclosed space for an extended period of time?

(DAVID KWAK, ALICE TAN) The latest surge in Covid numbers in South Korea may also be evidence of how difficult it is to tackle the coronavirus, keep it under control, and try to spur the economy at the same time. Because as health authorities struggle with the jump in virus tally in 200s and 300s today, the government’s spending booster campaign is still very much underway. They’re still offering 30, 40 dollar discount vouchers from hotel bookings to encourage getaways, you get discounts on your fourth meal out This coupled with raising social distancing leaves the average citizens very confused. Help us understand, Dr. Kim, Dr. Tan.

Dr. Alice Tan of MizMedi Women’s Hospital and Dr. David Kwak of Soonchunhyang University Hospital, thank you as always for your valuable insights. We appreciate it, as always.

Reporter : jenmoon@arirang.co.kr

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