The South Korean government has decided to extend home care for COVID-19 patients, which has been limitedly prescribed, in preparation for the beginning of the “With Corona” system in early November.
According to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, only those aged below 70 with no or mild symptoms are eligible for home care. Among such patients, those who want home care can choose the option. However, if patients live in a building where contacts with others are hard to avoid or require hospitalization, for example, for hemodialysis, they cannot choose home care even without any symptoms. In addition, those aged 70 or above are eligible for home care if they have completed vaccination, can communicate, and have a guardian.
Patients under home care should measure their temperature and oxygen saturation every day to enter them to a smartphone application and talk to a medical professional at least once a day over the phone. If their symptoms get worse, they can have non-face-to-face consultations and prescriptions from a medical institution designated by a public health center. The government plans to introduce an around-the-clock contact center and a system to take home care patients to hospitals in case of emergency.
The government announced that home care patients would be managed with an app with a GPS function to prevent them from leaving their homes and in case of leaving without permission they will be required to wear an electric wristband. “If patients leave their homes even with a wristband, they may be indicted,” said Kim Ji-yeon, the head of the medical treatment support team at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters.
If home care patients require a person for help because they are minors, handicapped, or over 70, a guardian can stay with them at home. However, guardians are required to use a separate bathroom and kitchen and also eat meals separately. If there is only one bathroom at home, the toilet needs to be sanitized after each use. Guardians also cannot leave homes either. They can order food or receive other deliveries, but no contact with delivery persons is allowed.
The home care treatment period is 10 days. After 10 days, a medical professional assesses and decides whether to end the treatment or not. Guardians who have completed vaccination are released from self-quarantine immediately after a negative PCR test result. Those who have not completed vaccination are required to self-quarantine for additional 14 days even after a negative PCR test result. Trash produced during the home care period should not be disposed of arbitrarily. It should be double-bagged and sanitized before being thrown away 72 hours after the end of home care.