[Newsmaker] Korea moves to self-reported contact tracing as COVID-19 positivity rate hits record high

[Newsmaker] Korea moves to self-reported contact tracing as COVID-19 positivity rate hits record high

People line up for COVID-19 tests at an outdoor testing facility in Songpa-gu, Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

As the omicron variant spreads rapidly in South Korea, associated numbers have also reached new highs, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Monday.

As of midnight on Sunday, the percentage of positive tests out of all tests administered in the country reached 26%, up 5.2 percentage points from 20.8% the previous day.

This means that 1 in 4 people who received a PCR test tested positive for COVID-19.

The figure has risen rapidly since last month. On January 31, the positivity rate reached 7.8%, but it has tripled over the past week.

The country’s new testing system, in which the rapid antigen test replaced the polymerase chain reaction test for COVID-19, could have partly boosted the figure. In most cases, people undergo an antigen test and, if the result is positive, they take a PCR test to confirm the diagnosis.

The number of patients receiving home care is also increasing rapidly amid the omicron wave.

In the 24 hours on Sunday, the number of patients in home care rose by 17,729 from the previous day, bringing the total to 146,445.

According to health authorities, the figure is approaching the country’s maximum capacity for those being treated at home. The current number of patients in home care is 88% of the country’s maximum capacity of 166,000.

As of midnight Sunday, a total of 538 medical facilities were handling home care across the country, down from 532 the previous day.

The government said it plans to increase the number of medical facilities that can treat COVID-19 patients under treatment at home to 650, which will take capacity to some 200,000.

To minimize daily COVID-19 deaths among patients on home treatment, the government said it would provide extra care for people in high-risk groups, he said.

Meanwhile, the government will also introduce a new contact tracing system, which will require patients with COVID-19 to voluntarily report their contact tracing data to health authorities.

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