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New virus cases stay below 30Government helps speed up development of vaccines, treatments
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.04.14 14:09
  • Updated 2020.04.15 19:19
  • comments 0

Korea’s new COVID-19 cases remained below 30 on Tuesday, as the government is moving to speed up support for local pharmaceuticals developing vaccines and treatments.

The nation confirmed 28 more cases, pushing up the total to 10,564 as of midnight Monday. Hospitals discharged an additional 87 patients, increasing the number of recovered cases to 7,534. Five more people died of COVID-19 to raise the death toll so far rose to 222, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for the health authorities to hasten to form an inter-agency support group to help drugmakers develop vaccines and treatments.

Chung emphasized that aggressive testing, quarantine, and preventing transmission through social distancing remain critical, but now is the time for the nation to seek a fundamental solution as soon as possible. He added that developing the medications are in desperate need not only for containing the outbreak but for leading the healthcare industry to make a big jump.

"State-run research organs should share their know-how accumulated through research and development as well as experimental materials and equipment with the private sector," said the Moon Jae-in administration’s new coronavirus czar. “Medical and academic communities should help each other by sharing clinical data, sample supplies, assessment, and consultation."

With the government's promise of full support, the public health authorities also have decided to exempt developers from mandatory animal tests if there are existing results from similar previous tests.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has also confirmed it would allow the relevant industries to use the results of existing animal testing for rapid entry for clinical trials.

To conduct clinical trials with humans in developing medicines, in-vitro and in-vivo medical studies have to be submitted beforehand. In the case of the COVID-19 treatments, it is a principle to conduct in vivo tests in animal models first. However, the ministry agreed to accept studies using animals infected other than the COVID-19 if the drug can be applied to other various viruses. This means that animal test results using influenza or respiratory syncytial virus, not COVID-19 virus, can also be used as a reference to enter clinical trials.

As a result, companies that develop medicines or vaccines by verifying efficacy in treating COVID-19 with repositioned licensed drugs can skip animal testing via submitting the existing studies.

Meanwhile, the National Election Commission has decided to allow people in self-quarantine who are without symptoms to cast ballots for the parliamentary election after other people complete voting at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Asymptomatic self-isolated voters are allowed to go out from 5:20 p.m. to 7 p.m. When going out to the polling booth, they should inform the responsible officials of their departure to the place by self-containment app or text. The self-isolators have to wear a mask on their way to the polling station and can only use sidewalks or their vehicles. They cannot use mass transit.

Some local governments will send officials to accompany the self-isolators on their way to the station. However, if the self-quarantined people drive to the station, the officials will not ride together. There is growing concern about the COVID-19 outbreak during and after voting.

According to the medical community, people can be infected by touching the object with the droplets of COVID-19 patients at the polling station and then putting the hand on the mouth or nose. The survival time of the COVID-19 virus on specific objects is still being studied. Yet, it is known to survive for days on plastics, paper, and stainless steel.

In Hong Kong, a study found that the virus survived for four days on surfaces of objects such as bills and glass, and four to seven days on plastic and stainless steel.

So far, Korea tested 527,438 people and completed 512,787 tests. Among the tested, 502,223 people showed a negative response, and 14,651 are being tested. The accumulated confirmation rate remained at 2.1 percent.


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