SECURING vaccines has become TOP PRIORITY.. amid the WORSENING pandemic and officials here have PLEDGED to PROCURE DOSES for 44 MILLION people.
For more I have Kim Dami here in the studio.
Welcome back Dami.

Good afternoon, Sunhee.

Do start us off with the latest on efforts to secure vaccines.

Sure, Sunhee.
Korean health authorities say it is moving ahead to sign vaccine supply deals with two more global drugmakers by the end of the year.
As of now, the country already has a firm agreement with AstraZeneca and the COVAX Facility.

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“We have already signed purchase deals with the COVAX Facility and AstraZeneca, and we’re now reviewing the contract terms with three other global suppliers. The timetable for an agreement may be different for each vaccine, but we’re looking complete the signing of at least two contracts by the end of the year.”

The names of the two drugmakers in question have not been disclosed by the Korean government.
But Commissioner Jeong did add that AstraZeneca’s vaccine was most likely to be the first one to be rolled out in the country for mass distribution.

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“The vaccines will be manufactured locally and distribution is expected to follow suit very quickly. Of course, we still need to iron out details on the timeline of distribution for vaccines from other suppliers.

Health authorities pledged to start the immunization program as soon as the vaccines are approved by the country’s drug regulator.
In the meantime, they are closely monitoring the situation in other countries, for any updates on the result of clinical trials and national vaccination programs that have already started.

Meanwhile I hear officials in Seoul are working to secure more beds to cope with the rising caseload?

Right, Seoul city on Monday announced its plan to build 18 new residential treatment centers within this week, for COVID-19 patient with mild symptoms.
In fact, nearly six-hundred new beds were made available on Monday alone.
Korean health authorities also began operating 150 temporary test centers in the Greater Seoul Area, starting Monday.
As of 6 PM yesterday, over 730 people got tested at Seoul Station alone.
In all, at least 22-hundred Seoul citizens got tested in one day, just at these temporary screening centers.
Testing is free and also anonymous, with citizens only being required to submit their phone numbers to get tested.
Plus, several options are available other than the usual testing with a nasal swab, and citizens are free to choose the one they prefer.
Three different types of testing methods are available.
They include the conventional PCR test using samples collected from the nasal cavity, and also one that is based on saliva samples, as well as a rapid antigen test.
The free testing will be available to all citizens with or without symptoms until January 3rd.
They are open from 9 AM to 6 PM every day, including weekends.

There are also growing calls ON FOR-PROFIT HOSPITALS to do their part to make more beds available for COVID-19 patients.

Right. With the number of cases now rising, so is the number of critically-ill patients, and state-run hospitals are struggling to cope.
Civic groups, including the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, are calling on the government to persuade for-profit hospitals to provide medical assistance as well as beds exclusively for the treatment of COVID-19.
One hospital in the capital region is volunteering to help out.
Bagae Hospital in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do Province has decided to empty all of its 220 beds over the next few days, and they will be reserved for COVID-19 patients only.
Health authorities will help move those who are currently hospitalized there to separate care facilities.
Having also treated COVID-19 patients in Daegu during the nation’s first mass outbreak, hospital director Kim Byung-geun also operates a screening center.
Bagae Hospital has set an important example, but other hospitals have been reluctant to follow suit,
and many are calling for the government to step in and incentivize their participation.
According to local health authorities on Monday, over 90 percent of all hospital beds in Gyeonggi-do Province set aside for COVID-19 patients were now occupied with only one left in the ICU to handle critically-ill cases.

One final question Dami.
I understand President Moon is urging for greater government effort to ease the financial burden on people amid the pandemic?

The Korean government is poised to give more cash handouts to help out struggling families, and I hear President Moon Jae-in called on authorities to make sure the checks arrive in the mail as soon as possible.

The President said Monday that the government will exert its full effort not only to stop the virus, but also to revive the economy and protect people’s livelihoods.

“Help is urgently needed, especially for small business owners and the self-employed. In addition to the support measures already in place, I ask that you speed up planning and preparations for the US$ 2.7 billion budget, approved by the National Assembly to finance emergency relief payments.

He said he’s planning to provide more than one million new public sector jobs to the socially vulnerable, including senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Thank you for joining us today.

My pleasure.

Reporter : damikim@arirang.com

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