x

Health

Omicron Forces S. Korea to End GPS Monitoring, Some Checkups

February 7, 2022

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will no longer use GPS monitoring to enforce quarantines and will also end daily checkup calls to low-risk coronavirus patients as a fast-developing omicron surge overwhelms health and government workers.

The speed of transmissions has made it impossible to maintain a tight and proactive medical response, Jeong Eun-kyeong, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said Monday.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 38,691 new cases of the virus, a nine-fold increase from the levels seen in mid-January, when omicron became the country’s dominant strain. Jeong said the country may see daily jumps of 130,000 or 170,000 by late February.

South Korea had been seen as a success story during the earlier part of the pandemic after it contained infections and hospitalizations more effectively than most countries in the West. Health authorities worked closely with biotech companies to ramp up laboratory tests and aggressively mobilized technological tools and public workers to trace contacts and enforce quarantines.

But the country’s strengths have been rendered irrelevant by the unprecedented spike in infections fueled by the omicron variant, which has stretched health and administrative resources.

Officials had already been forced to expand at-home treatments, reduce quarantine periods, and reshape testing policy around rapid antigen test kits, despite concerns over their reliability, to save laboratory tests for people in their 60s or older and those with existing medical conditions who are at higher risk for serious illness.

The plans to further ease the monitoring and quarantines came as health and public workers struggle to keep up with the near 150,000 people being treated at home for mild or moderate symptoms, which have led to delays in drug prescriptions and has paralyzed contact tracing.

Officials say public workers who had been monitoring virus carriers through GPS-enabled smartphone apps will now be assigned to help with at-home treatments. Virus carriers will no longer be required to report to local health offices when they leave home to visit doctors, while their cohabiting family members can now freely go out to buy food, medicine and other essentials.

Low-risk virus carriers, who are in their 50s or younger and have no pre-existing medical conditions, will now be left to monitor their conditions on their own and contact local hospitals if their symptoms worsen. Health workers will still make daily checkup calls to people in their 60s and older or those with pre-existing medical conditions.

“We are planning to transition toward an anti-virus strategy that’s concentrated on maintaining essential social functions while dealing with huge numbers of infections and people placed under quarantine,” Jeong, the KDCA’s commissioner, said during a government briefing.

While omicron is spreading much faster than previous versions of the virus, the rates of hospitalization and death have so far been lower than cases linked to delta, which drove a devastating surge in December and early January.

The KDCA said 270 patients were in serious or critical conditions as of Monday, while less than 46% of the country’s intensive care units designated for COVID-19 treatment were occupied. Still, experts say the country’s rapidly growing caseload is likely to drive up hospitalizations in coming weeks.

As of Monday, 86% of a population of more than 51 million people have been fully vaccinated and nearly 55% have received booster shots.

RELATED

Τhey're a little corny, a little too happy, and way too similar.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Warnock or Walker? Georgia Runoff to Settle Last Senate Seat

ATLANTA — Georgia voters on Tuesday are set to decide the final Senate contest in the country, choosing between Democratic Sen.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is still actively searching for ways to safeguard abortion access for millions of women, even as it bumps up against a complex web of strict new state laws enacted in the months after the Supreme Court stripped the constitutional right.

WASHINGTON — Law enforcement officers who defended the U.

Τhey're a little corny, a little too happy, and way too similar.

BEIRUT — Commercial brakes produced by a Dutch company to be used in ambulances in Turkey instead ended up in missiles used by Turkey in attacks in northeastern Syria, a report released Tuesday said.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.