The South Korean government has extended social distancing at the second highest level in its five-tier system for another week.
This comes after authorities deliberated over the weekend on whether to go to the highest level as cases surge by around a thousand a day with no COVID-19 vaccine available yet.
The country is struggling to stop the virus’s third wave while the government continues to downplay concerns over a possible delay in vaccine procurement with other countries having already started rolling them out.
For more on the country’s fight against the coronavirus and concerns about the coronavirus vaccine, we have Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women’s Hospital live in the studio.

Thanks for coming in, Dr. Tan.

In Korea, the number of daily new cases has dipped to the lowest level since mid-December with fewer than 800 local cases.
But local health authorities say it’s too early to draw any conclusions about a real decline.
Have the stringent social distancing measures started to take effect or is the worst yet to come in light of the number of untraceable cases at a record of 28-and-a-half percent?

South Korea has extended the strengthened 2.5 social distancing measures for another week in the greater Seoul area, although the criteria for raising it to the highest level three in its five-tier system have already been fulfilled.
How do you evaluate the government’s move in light of the current coronavirus situation in the country and given the data we have, do you think the government will elevate it to level 3 next month?

One of the strongest measure laid out by the government so far is a ban on gatherings of five or more people and measures to shut down businesses prone to the spread of the virus.
But as the stringent measures drag on, it’s widely expected that the public will experience fatigue and eventually not keep their distance.
Is there room for improvement in the government’s measures. For instance should we allow a private gym to operate with fewer than five people there at a time?

Health authorities confirmed earlier today a South Korean man, who had recently came from the UK, has contracted the new strain of the coronavirus.
His family members have also been confirmed of the virus.
Does this mean we now have to worry about a widespread infection of the new strain amid a shortage of hospital beds for the critically ill and without a vaccine?

Hundreds of local transmissions were recently traced to cluster infections at detention centers where the country keep suspects who are on trial.
Experts are saying this could have been expected since the inmates were not given masks until after a guard was infected.
Also families of the inmates were not being promptly informed of the inmates’ condition.
What are some of the lessons that we’ve learned through this, and how should we manage such government-run facility in times like this?

Local health authorities have downplayed concerns about a possible delay in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines as other countries have started mass inoculation already.
They say South Korea has no reason to be the first country in the world to get the vaccine, that verifying safety of these vaccines is vital and that it’s actually quite fortunate to seek how other countries are doing.
Do you agree with the government’s approach in terms of the reasoning and timeline in local procurement of vaccines?

The country’s medicine regulator said it’ll shorten the approval process of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments due to the pandemic’s urgency.
It aims to shorten the approval process to as low as 40 days from the usual 180 days.
Can you tell us more about this process, and will the country be prepared for the safe distribution of approved vaccines then? Will it help the government’s goal of acquiring vaccines for use starting this February?

As other countries have started inoculation, there are a number of reports about the rise of vaccine or immunity passports and risk-free certificates or applications that will be able to confirm for the authorities and immigration offices whether an individual has been tested for the coronavirus and their vaccination status.
Assuming there is no risk of a data leak, hacking, fraud etc. will this help or hurt efforts to root out the pandemic as the world fights the virus for another year?

Alright Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women’s Hospital thank you so much for your insights. We appreciate it.

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