Restrictions on Covid patients start to loosen up
Covid-19 patients are now allowed to leave quarantine to pick up medication from pharmacies.
Previously, virus patients had to stay home and get treatment over the phone. Prescription drugs had to be collected by another person such as an uninfected friend or relative.
Since March 30, local hospitals were allowed to give in-person treatment to Covid-19 patients, which was expanded to smaller clinics on April 4. This led to increased demands by patients to be able to go to the pharmacy on their own, authorities explained.
Under guidelines that went into effect today, quarantined patients can leave home and visit pharmacies themselves to get medicine prescribed during treatment either in-person or remotely.
Regarding the possibility of contamination, Park Hyang, director of antivirus measures at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, said it has prepared new guidelines for Covid-19 infection prevention measures at pharmacies and noted “it is important for pharmacists to wear facemasks with a KF-94 certification or higher and avoid unnecessary conversations,” adding the government is also “discussing a way of using disposable gloves.”
“Instead of patients coming in directly to the pharmacy, we are considering making a separate area, so pharmacies can [...] place the drugs in a separate space outside [for patients to pick up],” Park said.
“Instructions for administering medication may be explained over the phone,” she added.
Korea’s daily Covid-19 cases remained in the 200,000s for the second day in a row Wednesday, without the midweek hike seen on previous Wednesdays.
Korea logged 286,294 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the total caseload to 14,553,644, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
It was the first time in five weeks for a Wednesday figure to come down to the 200,000s, after hovering from 300,000 to 400,000 in previous weeks. Counts on Wednesdays tend to surge as more tests are conducted after weekends.
With signs of a continuing decline of the Omicron wave, health authorities said they will take gradual steps to loosen up rather than declaring an end to the epidemic and relaxing measures all at once ― including mask mandates.
“The term ‘endemic’ tend to be used as a contrast to a pandemic,” said Son Young-rae, senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters during a press briefing on Wednesday.
“This implies establishing the same response system as for other infectious diseases,” Son said. “It would be difficult to declare an endemic for the time being,” he said, citing a risk of new variants emerging.
“Because Omicron spread so fast, the effectiveness [of social distancing] itself is decreasing, and it is becoming less necessary to maintain a distancing system that continues to cause socioeconomic damage,” Son said. “Now is the moment we need to lift the distancing measures.”
Health authorities had said once infections are at a stable level, it may lift social distancing restrictions, possibly as soon as April 17, except for indoor mask rules.
"Once the current downtrend is stable and there is enough medical capacity, we will discuss lifting distancing measures starting with the ones causing bigger socioeconomic damage," Son said.
"Thus a lifting of the mask mandate is not a high priority," he said.
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