(LEAD) At-home virus treatment, booster shots for under-50s eyed amid bed shortage, soaring cases

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SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) – Home treatment for COVID-19 is being encouraged while virus patients are hospitalized in serious condition as bed shortages deepen amid peak cases, health officials said Monday.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) also said that the “vaccine passport” expiration date will be six months from December 20th.

Currently, high-risk establishments such as bars and nightclubs have implemented a vaccination pass system that requires visitors to be fully vaccinated or test negative.

Health officials said people between the ages of 18 and 49 will receive additional vaccinations five months after being fully vaccinated.

A ban on private gatherings could also be tightened.

According to the relaxed rules on social distancing, private gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed regardless of the vaccination. Even so, wearing a face mask indoors is mandatory.

The KDCA said it had become impossible to move into the second phase of the country’s ambitious plan to gradually return to normal life.

As part of the first of the three phases, the government relaxed most of its coronavirus restrictions, such as night curfews on cafes, restaurants and other multi-purpose facilities.

The second phase is to begin in December, the authorities said. The final phase of the program should begin at the end of January, which aims to completely lift restrictions on private gatherings.

South Korea’s quarantine efforts are at a critical point as the number of COVID-19-related deaths and seriously ill patients has increased.

On Monday, the country reported 3,309 new COVID-19 cases, which remained below 4,000 for the second day in a row, mainly due to fewer testing.

The risk level of the pandemic in the capital area of ​​South Korea reached its highest level in the past week.

Last week, South Korea introduced a new five-tier scoring system for the weekly risk level of COVID-19, which is used to decide whether to further relax virus restrictions as part of its three-phase “Living with COVID-19”. Scheme that began on November 1st.

If the risk level reaches the fourth degree or higher, the government should carry out an “emergency assessment” of the pandemic situation in order to possibly implement emergency plans and at the same time stop the loosened curbs.

The level for Greater Seoul, which includes Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, has risen from the fourth highest to the fifth, the highest, in just one week, according to the KDCA.

The KDCA said the other parts of South Korea stayed at the third highest level for two weeks in a row.

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