Quarantine regulations simplified as cases remain in 30,000s
Starting Wednesday, the quarantine period for all Covid-19 patients in Korea will be seven days from the date of testing, regardless of symptoms and vaccination.
For those who come into contact with someone infected with the virus, only the cohabitants who have not been vaccinated and those who were in close contact with the infected person at vulnerable facilities will be put under self-isolation.
The Central Disease Control Headquarters on Tuesday announced new changes to its criteria for quarantining and monitoring Covid-19 patients and their close contacts, which will go into effect Wednesday. The changes will be applied retroactively to patients who are already under home quarantine.
Until now, the quarantine period for Covid-19 patients was seven days for the fully vaccinated — referring to those who received their second dose 14 to 90 days ago and those who received their third dose — and 10 days for others. The new change will unify the quarantine term for all people to seven days.
In addition, the quarantine period had been counted from the date of symptom occurrence for patients with symptoms, but from the date of getting a positive result for asymptomatic patients. The dates will now be counted from the day the test was taken, regardless of symptoms.
“The government changed the criteria due to a need for efficiency and to streamline and simplify the guidelines and management at a time when the number of cases are soaring due to the spread of Omicron,” Kwak Jin, head of the patient management team at the headquarters, told reporters Tuesday.
The quarantine requirements for people who have been in close contact with virus patients were also eased.
All close contacts of a virus patient used to have to go under self-isolation, but from Wednesday, only the cohabitants who have not been fully vaccinated and people who were in close contact with the patient at certain high-risk facilities will be subject to the seven-day quarantine. These facilities include long-term care facilities such as nursing hospitals and adult day care centers, mental health centers and facilities for disabled people.
People who came into close contact elsewhere will be subject to voluntary monitoring, meaning the decision to quarantine will be left up to the individual and will not be monitored by authorities.
In addition, people who are subject to quarantine will now have to be notified by the infected relative or the facility owner, who will be notified of who to contact, instead of through each local health center.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test originally conducted multiple times before the release from quarantine or monitoring will be reduced to one time for all Covid-19 patients, close contacts and monitored people.
Health authorities also simplified isolation regulations for the cohabitants of patients.
Quarantine will be waived for fully inoculated cohabitants of patients, though they can get a PCR test if they notice any symptoms.
Once the patient gets released from quarantine, their cohabitant will also be released from both quarantine and monitoring.
In the case that a cohabitant gets infected during quarantine, only that person will be subject to a renewed seven-day isolation period — others will be exempt.
The eased quarantine measures come as Korea continues to see new highs in its Covid-19 numbers, driven by the spread of the Omicron variant and strained health facilities.
The country reported 36,719 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, the second largest number of daily infections registered since the start of the pandemic, raising the total to 1,081,681. Cases have remained in the 30,000s for four days in a row.
With infections soaring, the government stiffened its Covid-19 home care system and will provide the at-home health monitoring only to those at higher risk, such as people aged 60 or older and people aged 50 or older who are also immunocompromised or have underlying conditions, and make others check their conditions on their own starting Thursday.
It also discarded its GPS location-based phone application for monitoring patients being treated at home, and limited its free, more accurate PCR testing to only certain high-risk individuals.
“For the social distancing measures, we will comprehensively review the severity and fatality rates [of the virus] and the medical capacity while monitoring the virus situation and see whether they can be eased,” said Son Young rae, a senior Health Ministry official.
“We will [also] review whether there can be changes in the vaccine pass system along with the changes in contact tracing,” Son added.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]