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Visits to nursing homes to be allowed again, with caution

Health officials urge against social gatherings

Senior health official Yoon Tae-ho (Health Ministry)
Senior health official Yoon Tae-ho (Health Ministry)

Visits to care facilities for older adults will be allowed again starting July, as the government temporarily lifts the restrictions put in place in March to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

Yoon Tae-ho, a senior official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said in a briefing Friday that non-face-to-face visits will be permitted under strict guidelines.

“Elderly people are the most vulnerable of all, which is why visitors have been banned at care homes. But being apart from loved ones has become a source of pain for a lot of residents there,” he said. “So we’re opening up the facilities for visits as safely as possible.”

Meetings will have to be through glass or other transparent barriers, he said. Other safety protocols include checking visitors for symptoms, having them wash their hands before entering, and mandating the use of face masks and sanitary gloves at all times.

In-person gatherings are a pervasive route of coronavirus transmission, Yoon said, once again reminding the public to keep social events to minimum.

“Risks are being taken every time people gather,” he said.

Korea added 39 more cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours ending Thursday at midnight, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s daily situation report.

Of those, 27 were locally transmitted and the other 12 were imported.

Seoul and the surrounding areas accounted for most of the new cases linked to local transmission, recording 19. Daejeon had four such cases, South Chungcheong Province three and Gangwon Province one.

The disease control agency has warned of a second wave going on in the Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon area, which now makes up 21. 8 percent of the 12,602 cases nationwide.

To date, 11,172 or 88.7 percent of those diagnosed have recovered. A further 1,148 patients are still undergoing treatment.

Korea’s bar for recovery from COVID-19 has been adjusted starting Thursday in an attempt to ease bed shortages. Under the new policy, patients who have had no symptoms for 10 straight days since diagnosis are deemed to have recovered and released from isolation. Previously, two consecutive negative test results within a 24-hour interval were required.

So far, 282 people have died with COVID-19, leaving the fatality rate at 2.24 percent.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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