People wait in line for COVID-19 tests at a local testing station in Mapo-gu, Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)
The South Korean government will introduce a reservation system for polymerase chain reaction tests amid a resurgence fueled by a highly contagious omicron subvariant, the government said Friday.
The government also noted it would continue to secure additional hospital beds, while recommending local hospitals to spend more on oral antiviral pills for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
According to a COVID-19 response meeting held on Friday, the government will allow people to make reservations for PCR tests. The government is currently testing the reservation system at a total of seven public health centers. The government said it plans to expand the system to all public health centers nationwide in this month.
The government explained that it decided to introduce the reservation system to minimize waiting times for patients and to prevent possible infections at public health centers.
The country will also continue to secure more hospital beds, to the extent that the government can handle patients if the daily infections reach around 300,000.
Currently, there are some 6,800 beds at 326 hospitals where non-critically ill COVID-19 patients can be hospitalized. There are 1,662 hospital beds for critically ill patients, and the occupancy rate is at 32.7 percent.
The government also asked local hospitals for more active use of antiviral pills. While pointing out the country’s low prescription rate of Paxlovid, Jung Ki-suck, the head of an advisory committee on infectious diseases, advised the use of both Paxlovid and Lagevrio whenever possible.
“More active prescription of antiviral pills will help (the country) lower the rates of critically ill patients and deaths,” Jung added.
The government’s new anti-epidemic measures came amid the country’s daily COVID-19 infections having exceeded 100,000 for the fourth straight day.
During the 24 hours of Thursday, the country added 112,901 new COVID-19 infections including 497 from overseas, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency data.
The daily tally was slightly up from the previous day’s 107,894, as well as from 85,320 cases last week.
The number of deaths from the virus came to 47, up 13 from a day earlier. The death toll was 25,191, and the fatality rate was 0.12 percent.
The number of critically ill patients too increased 10 to 320 on the same day.
Meanwhile, the government expects the ongoing resurgence to peak at some 150,000 later this month – significantly lower than what the government anticipated earlier. The new estimate was announced on Thursday after the government found a recent drop in the reproduction rate of COVID-19.