Here in Korea.
The National Health Insurance Service is now COVERING the COMBINED COST of TESTINGS for BOTH COVID-19 and the FLU.
For DETAILS I have Kim Dami in the studio.
Welcome Dami.

Good afternoon, Sunhee.

So let’s begin with the FREE tests.

Right, the expanded coverage for testing has come into effect starting today.
Dual-purpose RT-PCR tests will be used, which can detect the presence of COVID-19 and influenza at the same time.
Testing is strongly recommended for anyone who is experiencing suspected symptoms.
Starting this Thursday, the cost of testing will be fully covered by national health insurance, despite the country experiencing a mild flu season thus far. Take a listen.

(KOREAN – )
“Starting tomorrow, tests that can simultaneously diagnose both COVID-19 and the flu will be covered by the National Health Insurance Service. This is a precautionary step, even though an influenza advisory has not been issued so far.”

Now, the dual-purpose RT-PCR test kits are quite handy in distinguishing COVID-19 patients from those with the flu, given the similarity in symptoms like coughing and fever.
Test results are ready within three to six hours, and cost as much as roughly 85 US dollars.
It will be covered in full by the National Health Insurance Service and the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, so no out-of-pocket expenses on your end.
Korean health authorities could also extend the duration of coverage, depending on the flu situation here in the country.

I see.
Speaking of health insurance there has been an EXTENSION in date for those hoping to get their regular medical checkup?

Right, if you want to go in for a regular checkup, you can now do so until June.
The decision was made to prevent overcrowding at medical centers amid the pandemic.
Korea’s health ministry said on Wednesday, the extension is part of efforts to contain the outbreak and ensure safety at the country’s hospitals and clinics.
Similar steps were taken back in 2005 when MERS broke out, when the due date for medical checkups was also extended until March, 2006.
But, local health authorities are still encouraging those with respiratory symptoms to get their checkup within the year as they are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

AND I understand authorities here have REITERATED their intentions to ensure a PROPER SUPPLY of vaccines for the public?

Right, the Korean government says it aims to distribute vaccines to 30 million people by next year.
It says it is negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for some 20 million doses.
Vaccines for the other 10 million have already been secured through the ‘COVAX facility’, a global initiative to allow equal access to COVID-19 vaccines.

(KOREAN- )
“We are currently negotiating with all of the leading vaccine makers, and we don’t expect major difficulties in reaching our goal.”

Health minister Park Neung-hoo also said on Tuesday that Pfizer and Moderna, which recently reported that their vaccine candidates were over 90% effective, are also trying to reach a deal with Korea.
He added that it will be easy to secure vaccines from AstraZeneca, another pharmaceutical giant, because its vaccines are being domestically produced.
Korea appears to be emerging as a production hub for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, as local firms have signed a series of deals to manufacture vaccines on behalf of other global companies.
Samsung Biologics has already manufactured a small volume of antibody treatment for COVID-19 with U.S.-based firm Eli Lilly.
Local rival SK Bioscience has signed agreements to produce COVID-19 vaccines with AstraZeneca and U.S. firm Novavax.
The government will be announcing details on how it plans to secure vaccines later this month.

Meanwhile we have two weeks left before the national college entrance exam.
Do tell us a bit about the preparations underway to ensure safety at test venues.

Right.
As it involves hundreds-of-thousands of students, both health and education authorities are on high alert especially amid the latest surge in cases.
That means more students may be in self-quarantine when the test day rolls around.
Almost half-a-million students will be taking the exam this year.
The education ministry is not only setting up regular exam sites, but also isolated test centers for those in self-quarantine,as well as those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19.
So far, they will be able to accommodate 120 confirmed patients and 38-hundred people in self-quarantine.
There will also be rooms for students who show COVID-19 symptoms on the day of the test.
For regular test-takers, only 24 students will be allowed in one room.
Also, the education minister has designated the timeframe from today to December 3rd as a special disease prevention period.
Containment efforts will be strengthened, including regular disinfection of public-use facilities and other locations that are often visited by students.
Parents and peers will not be able to cheer on the test-takers on exam day, which is an annual tradition, due to concerns over the outbreak.

All right Dami as always thank you for that coverage.

My pleasure.

Reporter : damikim@arirang.com

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