SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae-in called on Monday for expansion Corona Virus The most comprehensive testing and tracing as the country struggles to control the latest and greatest wave of infections.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 615 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Sunday, capping a month of daily three-digit increases that resulted in 8,311 confirmed patients in quarantine, the largest number ever.
The increase in the number of cases has dealt a blow The vaunted epidemic control system in South Korea, Which has successfully used invasive tracking, testing and quarantine to avoid lockdowns, mitigate earlier waves, and keep infections under 50 daily for most of the summer.
Presidential Blue House spokesman Chung Man-ho said in a press release that Moon had ordered the government to mobilize all available resources to track the infection, and to expand testing by deploying the military and more people from the public service.
Moon said test sites should run longer hours to allow working people to take the test at a time that suits them, and more test drive facilities should be set up, Chung said.
The positive rate for the most recent batch of tests was around 4.2 percent, compared to the overall average of 1.2 percent, according to KDCA.
Starting next week, testing centers will start using a test kit designed to collect samples more easily from saliva, and we hope it will reduce some of the difficulty they encountered when trying to collect usable samples, KDCA Deputy Director Na Seung Wong said in a media briefing.
Na said that while questions remain about its accuracy, the centers will also start using antigen tests – which are supposed to detect specific proteins of the virus – as a temporary solution.
Na expected daily cases to range from 550-750 for this week, and may rise to 900 cases per day next week.
“This crisis is the most dangerous so far,” he said, warning that the outbreak could lead to a “medical meltdown” if the numbers were not contained.
Controversy over new measures
On Sunday, authorities said they would impose strict social distancing rules in the capital and surrounding areas, which would last at least until the end of the month.
With this third wave, the government faced mounting criticism as cases continued to rise despite measures such as the imposition of the mask, curfews for restaurants and other businesses, and restrictions on public transportation.
Among the facilities ordered to close completely are private academies or high schools, called hagwon, which students use for further study.
Korea’s Hagwon League staged a rare public protest against the outright ban on opening Hagwon in the greater Seoul area, saying it was discriminatory because other companies including PC cafes and cinemas frequented by students were still allowed to open until 9 pm.
She added that the ban raised concerns among many students and parents before the final exam period, and will deepen inequality by promoting private lessons that only well-off students can afford.
In comments on a meeting of his senior ministers, Moon described the wave of infections as the most serious so far and apologized for the failure to mitigate the increase and for the burden caused by social distancing restrictions.
Monday’s total number of infections was down slightly from Sunday, when the agency reported 631 new cases, the largest daily toll since its peak in February and early March.
In total, South Korea has reported 38,161 cases, with 549 deaths.