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S. Korea might speed up booster shots and apply circuit breaker to 'Living with COVID-19' Updated: 2021-11-16 05:46:01 KST

We begin with the COVID-19 situation in South Korea, where the nation is likely to see another daily COVID-19 tally over two thousand.
But more concerning perhaps,.. is the increase in critical cases which is close to overburdening the healthcare system in the capital area.
Health authorities are drawing up a plan to try and address the problem.

For more on the latest COVID-19 updates, we have our reporter Kim Yeon-seung in the studio.
Good morning, Yeon-seung

Good morning

So let's start with the numbers.
How's it looking this morning?

Well Tuesday may be another day with the daily COVID tally over 2-thousand.
Health authorities logged more than 18-hundred new infections up to 9 PM Monday night, so the official tally for this morning may be somewhere closer to 2-thousand.
Included in Monday's tally were cluster outbreaks at two high schools in Jeju-do island, that ended up infecting at least 31 students and staff.
This is sparking concerns in that area because the National College Entrance Exam is just two days away, and they obviously don't want any situation that puts the test-taking students at risk.
Other than that, over 80 percent of the cases reported were from the Seoul metropolitan area, which is also concerning because the region is also seeing a very high concentration of critical cases as well.
Health authorities on Monday said that three out of four ICU beds in the Seoul area are filled.
And with more than 400 critical cases emerging daily nationwide most of them concentrated in the Seoul and the Incheon area.. the capital's healthcare system is quickly filling up to reach maximum capacity.

What are health authorities doing to address that problem?

Well, health authorities did say earlier that were going to pull the emergency brakes on the eased "Living with COVID-19" plan if they found the healthcare system was becoming overwhelmed.
Fortunately, they say that the country is not at that point yet,.. and they are still capable of handling the current situation by acquiring more beds and redirecting patients to healthcare units with more room.
Meanwhile, though, they are going to announce a contingency plan with specific details on what kind of steps they are going to take in terms of prevention measures when the current situation escalates to a health crisis.
They're calling the plan a circuit breaker.
The plan was actually supposed to be announced today, but the announcement has been postponed to this Thursday.
This is actually the second time the announcement has been pushed back, so it seems more time is needed to work on finer details and to get local governments on board.

Right, what do you mean when you say the health authorities can pull the emergency brake?
Will the entire "Living with COVID-19" be scrapped if the healthcare system is overwhelmed?

Previously, health authorities have said that one of the criteria needed to suspend "living with COVID-19" was if more than 75 percent of the nation's ICU beds are filled.
But even if the country reaches that point, it most likely won't immediately revert back to strict level four distancing measures.
Health authorities intend to look at all the factors coming into play and will take prudent steps to curb the spread.
If they see infections spreading among the unvaccinated, the plan might be to expand vaccine passes.
If authorities see outbreaks centered on social gatherings, they might lower the cap on meetings.
If they see some facilities or areas to be particularly vulnerable to cluster outbreaks, they're going to strengthen measures specifically in those areas.
So this contigency plan that will be announced later this week with all the details.

What other measures are health authorities taking to bring down the number of critical COVID-19 cases?

Officials also seem eager to speed up booster shots.
Many of the critical cases are concentrated among the elderly and breakthrough cases among those with waning immunization.
In order to prevent this, Health minister Kwon Deok-cheol mentioned pulling in the period between administering the booster jab and the final round of inoculations.
Currently, South Korea recommends people aged 50 and over get their shots at least six months after being fully vaccinated.
And for people in nursing homes or people working at high-risk facilities,.. they can get their extra jab as early as five months after full inoculation.
However, health minister Kwon Deok-cheol said that health authorities are currently reviewing the best time for people to receive their booster jabs.. and this could be three to four months after people get their final doses.

Right,.. thanks for the report, we'll see you again tomorrow morning with more updates.

Thank you
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