“A Covid war zone” is how South Korea’s health minister described that situation in the Seoul metropolitan area as the country reported another 615 new coronavirus infections and the virus appeared to be spreading faster.

“According to the mathematical modeling done by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and other experts, we expect 550 to 750 new daily cases this week. There could be over 900 daily cases next week.”

The country has recorded more than 53-hundred new infections in the past 10 days and Monday was the 30th day in a row of triple-digit daily jumps.
Most of the new infections were detected in the greater Seoul area where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions tied to various places, including restaurants, schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Effective midnight tonight, the greater metro area goes under level 2.5 social distancing.
Let’s go in-depth.
Live in the studio with me is Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Tan, thanks so much for coming in at such critical time.

President Moon Jae-in this morning ordered the government to mobilize every available resource to track infections and expand testing by deploying the military and more people from the public service.
Why is this key at this point and what does this tell us about the current situation?

But, how will this work? We know that health workers including epidemiological investigators are worked to their capacity at this point so, increasing the number of agents and bringing them helping hands is good news. But, is epidemiologic investigation something that can be done without extensive training and expertise?

Upon the president’s directives, the KDCA announced that it would extend operating hours at testing sites and expand drive-through testing facilities. But, not only this, the KDCA said it’s increasing testing strategies. and introduce a saliva test. What are they and how do they work? If these tests are easier and quicker, I wonder are they still as reliable?

Health authorities in this country have been pleading for citizen vigilance. The health minister today warned the country have to further increase social distancing from the second highest to go into effect at midnight tonight to prevent the resurgence in the capital area from “collapsing the healthcare system.”
Hospital beds in Seoul are apparently operating at 90-percent capacity. Is this alarming for you?

Health authorities also announced that they will ease the criteria to release patients from quarantine by reducing the period of isolation to 10 days from the current two weeks.
That to free up beds for the critically ill Covid-19 patients. Is this a wise move? How can we be sure that they’re virus-free after 10 days?

How else are the health authorities here planning to secure ICU beds? An infectious disease specialists’ group has called on the government to start planning to turn public gymnasiums and conventions centers into makeshift medical facilities.
Is that an alternative that needs to be considered at this point?

There is criticism that South Korea gambled on its own success by moving quickly to ease social distancing restrictions to the lowest level in October even as the virus was still spreading. In fact, data shows during the six weeks after the nation eased its social distancing in October, new Covid infections in Seoul increased 13 fold. What are your thoughts?

Meanwhile, the government said there will be an announcement on the country’s vaccine procurement status and vaccination timeline tomorrow. What are we expecting and as a medical expert, what will you be on the lookout for?

Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women’s Hospital, many thanks as always for your insights and expertise. We appreciate it.

Reporter : jenmoon@arirang.co.kr

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