South Korea marked its deadliest day since its first case of Covid-19 on January 20th this year today adding more than 1-thousand new infections for the second straight day and 22 more deaths in 24 hours amid growing fears that the virus is spreading out of control in the densely populated greater capital area.
The viral resurgence comes after months of pandemic fatigue, complacency and government efforts to breathe life into a sluggish economy.

Meanwhile, on vaccine front, a health care worker in Alaska had a serious allergic reaction after getting Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday with symptoms that emerged within minutes and required an overnight hospital stay.
Let’s go in-depth.

Joining us live in the studio is Dr. Jung Ki-suck, Professor of Medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital. Dr. Jung previously headed the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Jung, thanks for coming back to News In-depth.

I want to first talk about the pandemic in South Korea, more specifically in the greater capital region. 8-hundred of the more than 1-thousand new cases reported today were from the Seoul metropolitan area where health officials have raised alarm about a looming shortage in hospital capacities.
Today marked the 40th straight day of triple digit daily jumps, the deadliest day with 22 deaths and 242 are in serious or critical condition.
Yes, these numbers do sound alarming, but look pale when compared to other countries like the U.S. or those in Europe. Give us an objective analysis of the situation here, Dr. Jung.

Officials here are now mulling whether to raise social distancing restriction to maximum levels, which could possibly include bans on gatherings of more than ten people, shutting tens of thousands of businesses deemed non-essential and requiring companies to have more employees work from home.
As both a medical expert but also having been in an administrative post, is this the right time to tighten restriction levels?

Yet, even the most stringent level – level three on the five-tier scheme – isn’t a complete or a “hard” lockdown comparable to those seen in other countries. Will that be enough to bring the numbers down?

So, what concerns you the most at this point? What do you believe needs to be done at this point

Those in South Korea, particularly in the greater Seoul area have been able to just walk up to one of 150 makeshift screening centers and get tested for Covid-19 free of charge, without giving ID this week. So, you don’t have to show symptoms, you don’t need to have a history of being in close vicinity with a confirmed person. You can just randomly walk up and get tested. Authorities say they’ve found a total of 68 positive cases out of the 37,7-hundred-and-72 tests conducted in the first three days.
What does this mean?

There are three different types of tests being used at these screening centers.
Mainly used are the standard PCR nasal swab test and the PCR-based saliva test, but also rapid antigen tests that show results within 30 minutes.
These rapid antigen tests have shown to be less accurate due to the nature of the COVID-19 virus.
Is it okay to rely on these less accurate tests? Why are these tests used in combination with the PCR based tests?

I know you believe prudence is key when it comes to new vaccines. And, of course, Covid-19 vaccines are as novel as they can get. But, as an average person, I will come clean with you. I am nervous and anxious to see other countries getting vaccinated already while we here in South Korea haven’t yet seen our vaccine batches delivered. What we do continue to see is, only, a rise in infections, more deaths, and bed shortages. Are we where we should be in terms of vaccine procurement?

Shouldn’t we at least start to get the most vulnerable, meaning the elderly, and the most exposed, frontline healthcare workers, vaccinated right about now?

But, then again, yes. News of vaccine side-effects are quite disturbing and concerning. A middle-aged healthcare worker in Alaska with no history of allergies had an anaphylactic reaction ten minutes after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. Two similar reactions happened last week in the UK.
Some trial volunteers of the Moderna vaccine which is set for FDA approval as early as Friday have also noted occasional harsh side effects.
How risky is it to get the vaccine?

When should we, when do we expect the first of the South Korean population to get vaccinated?

Dr. Jung Ki-suck, Professor of Medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital and our News In-depth go to medical expert, many thanks as always for your insights and expertise. We appreciate it.

Reporter : jenmoon@arirang.co.kr

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