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South Korea will administer Pfizer COVID-19 tablets to combat Omicron wave

Workers unload a cargo containing Pfizer's antiviral pill, Paxlovid, as the first batch arrive in the country, at a cargo terminal of the Incheon International Airport, in Seoul, South Korea January 13, 2022. Jung Yeon-je /Pool via REUTERS

As concern grows over the development of the extremely dangerous Omicron strain, South Korea will begin treating coronavirus patients with Pfizer’s antiviral medicines on Friday, according to health officials.

The news: According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), at least 21,000 Paxlovid pills arrived on Thursday to be delivered to 280 pharmacies and 90 residential treatment centres.

  • Given Omicron’s substantially higher infectiousness, the drug should play a meaningful role in limiting the number of patients who acquire critical symptoms, even if the strain is very mild, said Kim Ki-nam, a KDCA official.
  • According to the KDCA, the medicine will be used to treat over 1,000 people per day, with priority categories comprising those at high risk of serious disease, those 65 and older, and those with compromised immunity.
  • Later this month, another 10,000 tablets are due to arrive.
A worker unloads a cargo containing Pfizer’s antiviral pill, Paxlovid, as the first batch arrive in the country for the treatment of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a cargo terminal of the Incheon International Airport, in Seoul, South Korea January 13, 2022. Jung Yeon-je /Pool via REUTERS

Facts and figures: Paxlovid was approximately 90 per cent successful in decreasing hospitalizations and death rates, according to Pfizer, and data suggests it is still beneficial against Omicron.

  • To combat an outbreak of infections caused by the Omicron strain, South Korea has started testing new medicinal methods. On Wednesday, it cleared the use of Novavax Inc’s vaccine.
  • With 679,030 cases and 6,210 deaths since the epidemic began, the country of 52 million people has been one of the coronavirus mitigation success stories, thanks to masks and social distancing.
  • The KDCA reported another high number of imported COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with 391, out of a total of 4,167 illnesses for the day.
  • The number of South Koreans who tested positive after attending a consumer electronics trade exhibition in Las Vegas last week has increased to 119, including several Omicron cases.
  • The Omicron variation accounts for a modest percentage of overall cases, but it has more than tripled in the last two weeks to roughly 12.5 per cent.
  • It might become dominant this month, as it has in the United States and parts of Europe, and daily counts could reach an all-time high of 20,000 next month, according to health officials.
  • According to KDCA data, nearly 90 per cent of South Korean adults have been completely vaccinated and 55 per cent have had a booster dose as of Wednesday.

On Friday, the government will determine whether or not to extend social distancing measures, which were imposed in mid-December after daily infections reached new highs of around 8,000.

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