Hospitals letting down their Covid-19 guard
Patients coming into hospital emergency rooms will no longer be required to take a Covid-19 test before receiving treatment, one more step toward pre-pandemic normalcy.
“We will reorganize the measures related to Covid-19 screening and quarantine for swift emergency care,” Cho Kyoo-hong, the health minister, said Wednesday.
“When a patient visits an emergency room, in principle, he or she will receive treatment first and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or a rapid antigen test will be provided only if a test is considered necessary by medical staff,” Cho explained.
To prevent the spread of infection in emergency rooms, the government required all patients to take a Covid-19 test before visiting them regardless of the patient’s condition. This caused long waits and problems for patients who needed urgent care.
However, inpatients as well as their guardians or caregivers will still need a coronavirus test conducted within 48 hours of hospitalization.
The regulation putting both Covid patients and patients with suspected symptoms of the virus in a separate ward will also be changed. This will allow suspected Covid patients to get treated for urgent care in a general ward.
New Covid-19 cases in Korea climbed back to the 30,000s, recording 30,535 Wednesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Tuesday’s count was down by 4,204, or by 12.1 percent from a week earlier.
The cumulative caseload came to 25,025,749, which is equivalent to almost half of the country’s 51.6 million population.
Korea is also bracing for a “twindemic” — when seasonal influenza and the coronavirus circulate simultaneously — this winter.
“The number of daily Covid-19 patients has been in the 30,000s for three weeks in a row,” the health minister said in Wednesday’s meeting. “As winter approaches, the number of flu patients is also increasing.”
While an influenza warning was issued in September for the first time since 2019, a KDCA report showed that an average of 7.1 people out of 1,000 outpatients from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 had flu-like symptoms. The figure was the highest since data was first compiled in 2014 and a 45 percent increase compared to the previous week.
The highest rate of flu-like cases were found in infants and young children from ages one through six — 12.1 people out of 1,000 — which was a 53.1 percent increase from the previous week.
In addition to children and pregnant women, people 75 or older became eligible for a free flu shot starting Wednesday.
People between the ages of 70 to 74 can get a booster shot from next Monday, followed by people between the ages of 65 and 69 from next Thursday.
The country started administering Omicron-adapted Covid-19 vaccine from Tuesday, given as a booster first to people at higher risk, such as the elderly aged 60 or older and immunocompromised.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]