Sick pharmacists to go back to work after 3 days
Pharmacists in Korea have been told to return to work three days after being diagnosed with Covid-19, just like doctors and nurses, to counter manpower shortages during Korea's Covid-19 surge.
According to the Korean Pharmaceutical Association on Sunday, the Ministry of Health and Welfare recently issued a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to pharmacists and their employees to make sure pharmacies around the country continue to function amid soaring Covid-19 cases.
Since Feb. 16, the government allowed all local pharmacies to make and deliver Covid-19 medicines to virus patients, and some designated pharmacies to make the Pfizer’s antiviral oral pill Paxlovid. Lately, a shortage of home test kits as well as cold medicine has developed.
But Korea mandates all Covid-19 patients undergo seven days of quarantine, which could keep medical workers including pharmacists at home.
The government’s latest guidelines are divided into three different stages: Stage 1 (Prepare), Stage 2 (Response) and Stage 3 (Crisis).
When the daily virus tally is 100,000 or above, as it is now, Stage 3 is implemented.
Under Stage 3, fully vaccinated employees at pharmacies who test positive from the virus can come back to work after three days of isolation if they are asymptomatic or show mild symptoms. A person is considered fully vaccinated if they received the second vaccine dose (or first for the single-dose regimen Janssen vaccine) within 14 to 90 days, or received a booster shot more than 14 days ago.
After returning to work, the workers must wear a KF94-certified face mask, while private activities outside of work won’t be allowed during the reduced isolation period.
The government said the measures are not mandatory, and will allow pharmacies to apply the guidelines according to their situations.
Saying that pharmacies, like hospitals, are essential facilities providing health care, the pharmaceutical industry had been asking the government for a BCP in the event staff sicknesses.
Large hospitals in the capital, such as Seoul National University Hospital, Asan Medical Center and Samsung Medical Center, have already implemented a BCP and shortened the quarantine period for infected medical professionals from seven to five days. Chungbuk National University Hospital in North Chungcheong shortened its quarantine period to five days for all employees.
But some worry about contamination of patients if hospitals operate with reduced quarantine periods, and point out that the government should find a way to increase staffing.
The country on Sunday added 334,708 new Covid-19 cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said, remaining in the 300,000s for two days straight.
Partly due to fewer tests being conducted over the weekend, the number of virus cases dropped by 46,746 from the previous day and 15,475 compared to a week ago.
Still, Korea saw its second-largest number of Covid-19 fatalities in a single-day with 327 new deaths.
By age, people aged 60 or older accounted for more than 96 percent, including 217 people in their 80s, 70 in their 70s and 27 in their 60s.
The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in critical condition went down by 16 to 1,033, but still stayed above 1,000 for nearly two weeks.
Yet the government decided Friday to ease social distancing restrictions and raised the cap of the size of social gatherings to up to eight people, up from the current cap of six, which will be in force starting Monday for two weeks. The 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants, cafes and gyms remains unchanged.
From Monday, fully vaccinated travelers won’t have to undergo 7-day quarantines when entering Korea. People vaccinated overseas who don't have their vaccination records registered in the country’s system, however, will have their quarantine lifted from April 1 once they submit the required vaccine records online into the Q-Code system.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]