Coronavirus infections are soaring as the government abandons its zero-COVID strategy on Thursday, but the new approach is causing some alarm.
The daily tally of new cases reached 54,122 on Thursday morning and the National Institute for Mathematical Sciences projected they could reach 230,000 to 360,000 by early March.
Starting Thursday, most people who are self-isolating at home after testing positive only have to contact nearby medical facilities for a remote diagnosis if they have symptoms. But by Wednesday afternoon, health officials had sent no detailed instructions to provincial governments and neighborhood clinics on how to deal with them.
Some 35 out of 70 designated outpatient facilities in the country are in the Seoul metropolitan area and none in Daegu, Gwangju, Jeju and Ulsan. The number of doctors at help centers handling night-time remote diagnosis also varies from region to region.
Koreans have started hoarding cold medicine. “Sales of over-the-counter pain relievers increased around three times,” a pharmacist in Seoul said. “People seem to be getting ready for self-isolation just in case.”
The changes are feared to marginalize singles and low-income families. People living alone can get their medicine delivered from public health centers, but they are often overstretched.
Cold medicine, thermometers, pulse oximeters and other diagnostic tools also cost money. A pulse oximeter costs anywhere from W30,000 to W100,000, and many patients may not have the money to spare (US$1=W1,194).
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