Limit on private gatherings increased to six people

A pharmacist shows boxes of Pfizer’s Paxlovid oral pill to treat Covid-19 at a drug store in Guro district in western Seoul on Sunday. As Korea began administering the antiviral pills on Friday, health authorities said that of the nine patients who took the drug on the first day, many showed signs of recovery. [NEWS1]

From Monday, caps on private gatherings will be raised to the current six from four, while the 9 p.m. curfew will remain on restaurants and cafes until February 6, including the early Lunar New Year holidays. next month.

The slight easing of restrictions on private gatherings came as health authorities determined they were not contributing much to the spread of the virus. The number of daily Covid-19 cases has hovered around 4,000 in recent days after hitting more than 7,000 last month.

But restrictions on facility opening hours will be maintained in a bid to slow the spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Thus, facilities more prone to virus transmission such as restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, indoor sports facilities, norabang (singing room) and saunas must close at 9 p.m., while other establishments such as hagwon (primary schools) and CP hit (internet cafes) are allowed to operate until 10 p.m.

Limits on events and gatherings will also remain in place. The number of participants is limited to 49 if unvaccinated people are included, but increased to 299 if all participants are fully vaccinated.

The government has encouraged people to refrain from visiting their hometowns and meeting relatives during the Lunar New Year holiday, which runs from January 31 to February 2, when trips and family reunions across the country are waiting. Accordingly, he announced special measures for the New Year holidays to be applied between January 20 and February 2.

Seating on trains will be limited to window seats only, and all passengers must have their temperature checked before boarding.

As during previous major holidays, meals at motorway rest areas will be prohibited from January 29 to February 2.

Meetings at nursing facilities will only be available through windows, which must also be booked in advance. Indoor memorials will also be operated by reservation during the Lunar New Year holidays.

In addition, temporary Covid-19 testing sites will be set up at nine expressway rest areas, while consultations at the Korea Disease Prevention and Control Agency (KDCA) will be available 24 hours a day via its call center during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Health authorities plan to adjust distancing rules two or three times more in the coming weeks.

However, if the number of daily Covid-19 infections exceeds 7,000 even with virus control measures in place, the government plans to immediately activate a response system designed to deal with the Omicron variant.

Under the new response system, PCR tests will be given to priority people such as those over 64 or those who have received a written doctor’s note from a designated medical facility.

Other people who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms will first be tested with rapid antigen tests at a nearby hospital or medical clinic. If they are positive, they will be retested with a PCR test.

“Once the Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain, we believe the risk will decrease,” said Lee Ki-il, senior control officer of the Central Disaster and Security Countermeasures Headquarters. “Next, we plan to gradually expand [the involvement of hospitals] starting with local respiratory, ENT, internal medicine and pediatric clinics.

Those who test positive but have mild symptoms will receive outpatient care at hospitals or medical clinics and stay at home for treatment. Patients with moderate to severe symptoms will be hospitalized in infectious disease hospitals.

People receiving care at home will be isolated for seven days, up from ten currently, while cohabitants will also be subject to quarantine for seven days.

The government has warned that the Omicron variant will account for more than 50% of total infections and will become dominant over the current Delta variant within a week at the earliest.

In phase zero of the Omicron variant, the government has stated that it will deploy its vaccination campaign in such a way as to minimize the number of unvaccinated people.

To this end, the government aims to continue to encourage vaccination of 12 to 17 year olds, while developing a vaccination plan for children aged five to 11 by next month.

“There are many countries currently vaccinating children between the ages of five and 11,” said Im Suk-yeong, director general of the situation at the central disease control headquarters, adding that officials are constantly monitoring related situations in the country. ‘foreigner.

Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is currently reviewing vaccinations for people between the ages of five and 11, but has not drawn any conclusions. There are about three million children in this age group.

Korea reported 4,194 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, remaining in the 4,000s for five consecutive days.

The number fell slightly by 229 from the previous day, but showed an increase of 823 from last Sunday’s figure.

The number of patients in critical condition rose to 612, with the national intensive care bed occupancy rate holding steady at 31.8%.

BY SEO JI-EUN [[email protected]]

Sara H. Byrd