South Korea has reached 70% full COVID-19 vaccination rate as of 2 p.m. last Friday. This is an achievement in eight months since vaccination first started on Feb. 26, this year with patients in nursing home. Seventy-percent COVID-19 vaccination target was a prerequisite set by the government to start phased return to normal lives and the ease of the COVID-19 precautions. The nation is now set to launch a new COVID-19 relief policy.
Reaching 70% full vaccination rate is a remarkable feat that has not been met by many countries such as the U.K., the U.S., Israel, Germany, and France that have started vaccination programs in last December. The U.S. vaccination rate stands at 56%, and the U.K. and Germany are stalling at 65%. The turnaround in vaccination rates was possible thanks to people who actively participated in vaccination efforts based on a reasonable judgment that the COVID-19 crisis can be managed best through vaccination, as well as highly sophisticated healthcare infrastructure and the dedication of medical workers.
The government plans to advance toward a new COVID-19 prevention and response measure from as early as early November. Instead of reducing the number of infected patients, the new prevention mechanism will focus on minimizing the fatality rate. Under the new COVID-19 response program, restrictions such as physical distancing will be eased, which may lead to a surge in infections. To ensure that the infection rate remains stable, home caring for asymptomatic patients or people with mild and moderate COVID-19 infection needs to be well-constructed, in addition to treatment provided in isolation and quarantine centers.
However, a COVID-19 infected patient in his sixties, who was under home care pursuant to the health authority’s new guideline, died last Thursday. This is the first time in the nation a patient under home care died since the home treatment system was first introduced in January 2021. Although the patient called 911 as his condition exacerbated, regular emergency team was dispatched, not knowing the caller was a COVID-19 patient under home care, instead of the COVID-19 specialized emergency ambulance. The hospital assignment was also delayed in the process. This tragedy should never be repeated.
Daily new cases rose to 3,271 in Sept. 25 and came down to around 1,000; however, the number could rise again with eased restrictions under the novel COVID-19 response guideline. Getting ready for an increase in COVID-19 cases, the health authority must expand healthcare facilities that provide assistance to home-care patients and ensure that transport of patients is not unduly delayed. Indoor mask mandate will still be in place under the new COVID-19 prevention measures, which means that people should not hastily return to pre-pandemic lifestyle. Standing at the doorstep of the new normal en route to life with the coronavirus, we must remain agile for the post-COVID-19 world.