South Korea handing out free rapid tests as COVID-19 cases soar

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South Korean authorities announce that they will start handing out free COVID-19 rapid tests amid the ongoing surge of virus infections, The Associated Press reported

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Wednesday that officials will start the new initiative next week by handing out testing kits at secondary schools, senior health care facilities and neighborhood welfare centers in an effort to strengthen protection for unvaccinated children and high-risk groups. 

South Korean Education Minister Yoo Eun-hye also said that schools will be receiving enough kits for students to use twice a week, saying that some tests won’t be mandatory, according to the AP. 

“We ask for students to be tested at home with the rapid antigen test kits on the evenings of Sunday and Wednesday before coming to school,” Yoo said at a media briefing. “When testing positive from those tests, please visit the local health office to get PCR [lab] tests.”

Kim also said the health officials will consider both the pandemic’s impact on the country’s economy and the ongoing threats made from the current omicron variant surge to announce new social distancing measures, the AP reported. 

South Korea on Wednesday reported its highest daily total of virus infections with 90,443 new cases, breaking a one-day record that was set on Tuesday with more than 33,000 virus cases.

Authorities recently eased COVID-19 quarantine restrictions earlier this month to prevent disruptions at workplaces and essential services, which may occur if many people are forced into isolation. 

More than 86 percent of South Korea’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus, and 58 percent of residents have received their booster shots. 

Health officials plan to administer a fourth vaccine shot at nursing homes and other long-term care centers starting later this month, the AP noted.

Tags COVID-19 rapid antigen test South Korea

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