South Korea's prime minister pleaded with citizens this morning to abide by social distancing rules to avoid even greater restrictions in the face of the country's largest wave of coronavirus infections.
Daily infection rates are hovering at record levels with another 880 new cases reported today.
Schools in the Seoul metropolitan area closed for a month from today as the government moves closer to imposing the toughest level three restrictions, which would essentially mean a lockdown of Asia's fourth-largest economy.
Let's go in-depth.
Joining me live in the studio: To my right, Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women's Hospital and to my left Dr. David Kwak, Physician at Soonchunhyang University Hospital.
Thank you both for joining us this evening.
Considering the weight and impact of Level 3 distancing, we first need to level-headedly look back at whether all of us are properly implementing the current level. The government is reluctant to impose Level 3 restrictions because of the "irrevocable pain" it would cause.
Those are the words from Prime Minister Chung today. Your assessment of the current situation and your thoughts on the government's assessment.
Starting yesterday, South Korea launched what's called a "focused testing period" setting up 150 temporary screening centers in the greater capital region where anyone can just walk in and get tested free of charge without having to identify oneself. That's in addition to the 210 existing test sites in the Seoul area.
How effective will these tests be?
What's interesting though is that these centers are using various tests.
Mainly using the standard PCR nasal swab test and the PCR-based saliva test, but also rapid antigen tests that show results within 30 minutes.
These rapid antigen tests have shown to be less accurate due to the nature of the COVID-19 virus.
Are these the ones President Trump took over the days leading up to his positive test result?
How are thes tests different and how do you differentiate who will receive what kind of a test?
We return to the crucial concern of hospital bed availability specifically ICU beds that are needed for COVID-19 patients. We learned today that of the 77 in Seoul, only two remain available.
How do we cope with bed shortages and what needs to be done to prevent a collapse of the medical system, at this point?
Meanwhile, Europe has begun imposing "hard" lockdowns through Christmas. The UK government announced that London will be thrown into the highest level of Covid restrictions just a fortnight after being released from a nationwide lockdown as health authorities also study a new variant of COVID-19.
Germany is also imposing a hard lockdown. How do the situation in Europe compare with South Korea?
The UK started its vaccination campaignlast week - December 8.
They're facing logistical challenges and complications from patients showing allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Patients now require monitoring for 15 minutes after being injected.
This has led to some U.K. doctors' offices to pull out of the local vaccination campaign because they just can't accommodate patients being lined up while also keeping social distancing measures.
What could be causing the allergic reactions, and what does it mean for the Pfizer vaccine?
As for vaccinations, the first shots were given as the U.S. surpassed 300-thousand virus-related deaths. Vaccinations also began in Canada.
Why has the FDA only approved the Pfizer vaccine so far? How about Moderna?
There are still people that need reassurance.
While it is true that this vaccine has only just concluded its clinical trials, given the circumstances of the global pandemic, the world is coping with what we've got.
How do we give the reassurance to people in doubt, and what could the risk be if the number of people that resist getting vaccinated increase?
Dr. Alice Tan of MizMedi Women's Hospital, Dr. David Kwak of Soonchunhyang University Hospital, many thanks for your insights. We appreciate it.