On the afternoon of Sunday, February 6, the screening clinic at Mokdong Stadium in Yangcheon-gu, Seoul.

At a glance, well over 1,000 people were lining up around the screening clinic.

"Wow, it's not an idol concert hall, and there's a line like this, so how do you wait? Let's just go." Dozens of people turned away after seeing this scene.

I asked the high school student who had just come out with a negative confirmation in hand how long it took.

"I stood in line an hour before the clinic door opened and it took 3 and a half hours, but my friend has been waiting for 4 hours. If you stand in line now, it will take about 5 hours, right?"

The reporter was also turned away because he was not confident to wait five hours in minus 8 degrees Celsius.




The government overhauled the COVID-19 testing system on the 3rd.

With the rapid increase in the number of test subjects due to the rapid increase in Omicron's confirmed cases, the main goal is to focus on rapid antigen testing and drastically reduce the number of existing PCR test subjects.

Only the elderly 60 years of age or older, epidemiologically related persons, and high-risk groups can undergo PCR testing.

Although the rapid antigen test is somewhat less accurate, it is known as a fast test method.

However, most of the people who visited the inspection station responded that it was not 'prompt'.



The field is confused by the rapidly changing inspection system.

After the reorganization of the testing system, the reporter visited the screening clinic three times.

I saw a lot of people who read, listened to, and were confused by news or articles.

It would be great if you don't have to visit a screening clinic, but just in case, I would like to explain the changed COVID-19 testing system (though there will be more detailed adjustments soon) and rapid antigen testing.



A visit to a screening clinic…

Am I subject to rapid antigen test?

PCR target?

You can hear the suffocating voices of the prosecutor's office and an elderly man who appears to be in his 70's.

"I've been waiting for an hour, aren't you here? You'll have to guide me."

"Did you not see the one posted at the entrance? The elderly are over 60 years old, so they are subject to PCR."

"I want to receive the one I receive quickly, can't I get it?"

"No. Getting PCR is the government guideline."



As people keep getting confused, the inspector repeats this every time people come.

"Those who are over 60 years of age or who have received text messages from close contacts should go to the PCR line. This is the rapid antigen test line."

People bouncing around at the entrance, people standing in the wrong line and standing again, "What line is this?"

to those who ask.

It's been a week since its implementation, but the confusion persists.




What tests should I take?

Those who are over 60 years of age, epidemiologically related people such as close contacts, and workers in facilities vulnerable to infection, such as nursing homes, belong to the high-risk group.

If this applies to you, you can undergo a gene amplification test (PCR test) that has been previously performed.

In this case, there must be proof such as an identification card or a text stating that the person is subject to inspection.

Those who do not fall under this category will be tested for rapid antigen.

Rapid antigen testing can be obtained at screening clinics including public health centers, and at local hospitals.

If you want to check which hospital in your neighborhood can take the test, go to Naver Map or Kakao View and search for 'Rapid Antigen Test' or click the 'Rapid Antigen Test' button at the bottom of the map window to find it quickly.

Although it is on the list of hospitals for testing, there are some places that do not provide treatment, so you must call before visiting so you do not go in vain.

However, screening clinics are free, but hospitals incur a fee.

(The cost is discussed further below.)




First of all, reporters in their 40s who are not in the high-risk group are subject to rapid antigen testing.

I checked the name, contact information, resident registration number, address, and whether a voice confirmation was issued on the application documents and received a 'self-diagnosis kit'.

When you receive the kit, follow the guidance of the inspection station staff to the inspection area.

There are about 10 simple tables in the examination space, and each person undergoing the examination sits at a desk.

Following the guide's instructions, place the test kit on the desk, take out a cotton swab, and collect a sample through your nose.

In some testing laboratories, the laboratory medical staff collects samples for you.

(This method is faster) Then, put a cotton swab into the reagent, drop 3 drops into the kit, and then move to the waiting area and wait 15 minutes.

If you hear a voice after 15 minutes, you can get a voice confirmation.

(Your choice) If positive, notify the laboratory staff and undergo PCR testing.

Excluding the waiting time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, it took 25 minutes to receive the test and results.

If you belong to a high-risk group that falls under the table above, or if the rapid antigen test is 'positive', you can go to the PCR test.

As the number of tests increases, the PCR test is said to take an average of 2-3 days.


Click ▶ Rapid antigen test vs self-diagnosis kit?

The rapid antigen test is performed using a self-diagnostic kit.

Then you can do it at home, why would you do it at a screening clinic?

Screening clinics have specialists who can help with the test, and if the test result is positive, you can get a PCR test right away.

In addition, if you take the test at home, you cannot receive a 'negative confirmation' even if the result is negative.

A 'negative confirmation' is issued only when it is received at a screening clinic.

Therefore, those who need a negative confirmation for the vaccine pass must undergo rapid antigen testing at a screening clinic.


Rapid antigen test kits include self-test kits used by the general public and professional kits where medical personnel collect samples.

The method of collecting an antigen and immediately confirming whether it is positive is the same.

At local hospitals and clinics, rapid antigen testing is carried out with professional kits.

If you line up, it's 'free'...

A local hospital is 70,000 won?

The government announced that it has introduced a system so that local hospitals and clinics can receive rapid antigen testing in order to respond to the spread of the Omicron mutant virus.

It is known that there are 779 medical institutions designated for respiratory treatment by local hospitals and clinics participating in tests and treatment.

Combining respiratory treatment-designated medical institutions and respiratory clinics, currently 885 corona tests and treatments are being conducted across the country.

A list of participating medical institutions can be found on the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service or the COVID-19 website.



However, it is pointed out that local hospitals and clinics are not well prepared for the corona diagnosis test system.

It was known as a designated medical institution, but upon visiting, hospitals that could not be tested were found everywhere, and there were several reports that the cost of testing was different for each hospital.

Many people turned away after visiting the hospital without knowing the exact information about the examination fee.




To find out how much difference the actual cost is, I made a call to four designated medical institutions, hospitals and clinics within walking distance from SBS in Mok-dong.

All four were within 2 km of the broadcasting station, but the cost varied widely.

(As of February 10) In Hospital A, the rapid antigen test cost 5,000 won regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms.

Hospital B has to pay 50,000 won for the examination if there are no symptoms, but it is free if there are symptoms.

You can only know for sure if you have symptoms or not, see your doctor.

At Hospital C, the rapid antigen test cost 70,000 won for asymptomatic patients.

All of these hospitals have separate fees.

Of course, considering that there is a price difference due to the different types of test kits, I thought that the cost of testing for asymptomatic patients was excessively high.

I searched online and on social media for news that I could get a test at a local hospital, but there are a lot of people who say that they go to a screening clinic even if they line up because of the cost of the test.


Self-diagnosis kits are out of stock... the testing center is 'busy'

February 8.

I went to the screening clinic 1 hour before the start time of the treatment.

About 150 people were already waiting.

Estimated travel time is about 1 hour.

Hundreds of people lined up behind me in an instant.

It is impossible to keep distance because of the crowd.

A woman standing behind the reporter poured out her complaints, saying, "Ugh, there are so many people here, but even people who don't have corona will get caught here."

A mother lined up with her daughter, who appears to be in the 3rd or 4th grade of elementary school, said, "I came to take the test with anxiety because a confirmed person came out of the academy the child attends. I couldn't find it, so I came to the screening clinic," he said.



The reporter visited 6 pharmacies in Mok-dong on the 9th, but there were no diagnostic kits left.

One pharmacy said, "About 20 to 30 pills come in a day, and in many cases they go out in less than 5 minutes."

You can get it at online shopping malls, but most of the test kits, which cost 10,000 won for two doses at the beginning of last month, have risen to 20,000 won.

There is a product with a similar price to that of a drugstore, so when I clicked on it, it said 'Scheduled to ship in late April'.

The competition to purchase kits posted on second-hand trading sites is fierce even at a higher price than pharmacies.

This is why there are concerns that a 'second mask riot' is taking place.



The daily number of confirmed cases is around 50,000.

More and more people are trying to get tested, but self-diagnosis kits are so hard to find, more and more people are flocking to screening clinics.

It's a vicious cycle.

In response to such criticisms, the government decided to review the reservation system to reduce waiting times for screening clinics.

The quarantine authority said, "Even now, if the on-site wait becomes long, we have applied a flexible operation such as bringing a self-test kit home and conducting a PCR test if positive, but we are reviewing the reservation system for further improvement."




At the same time, the government has introduced high-strength measures for the supply and demand of self-diagnosis kits.

The government held a meeting of the task force for supply and demand response of rapid antigen test kits on the 10th and decided to ban online sales from tomorrow (13th) (stocks are exhausted by the 16th).

In the case of offline sales, it plans to limit sales to pharmacies and convenience stores.

In order to prevent unfair practices such as stalling and extortion, the sale price is limited and the quantity purchased at one time is limited.

It was decided to distribute self-diagnosis kits free of charge to daycare centers and welfare facilities for the elderly, which are vulnerable to infection.

From the 21st, 1~2 servings per week will be distributed free of charge to 2.16 million people, including daycare center students and workers, and residents of elderly care facilities.

Distribution to kindergartens and elementary schools will be decided later after consultation with the superintendent of provincial and provincial superintendents.


1 in 4 is 'fake positive'...

Unbelievable rapid antigen test?

Although it is not possible because there is no self-diagnosis kit, the self-diagnosis kit is far inferior to PCR in terms of the accuracy of the results.

According to the quarantine authorities, 84,000 rapid antigen tests were performed between the 26th and 31st of last month at 41 screening clinics in four regions including Gwangju, Jeonnam, Pyeongtaek and Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, of which 687, or 0.8%, were positive. Confirmed.

After receiving a 'positive' result from the rapid antigen test, there were 523 cases where the PCR test was also positive.

The remaining 23.9% (164 cases) were positive in the rapid antigen test, but the final PCR test was confirmed as negative.

This means that 1 out of 4 people who tested positive for the rapid antigen test were 'false positives' who were not actually infected.

However, there is little social damage because there is no risk of 'false positive' being filtered again in the PCR test or infecting others even if it is not filtered.




The problem is that there is no way to compensate for the 'fake voice' in which the actual confirmed person came out as negative.

The Korean Society of Diagnostic Laboratory Medicine warned that if rapid antigen testing is fully introduced to asymptomatic patients, there is a high risk of false-negative patients in the early stages of infection, so it is impossible to isolate them, and there is a risk of spreading the infection.

Currently, the 'false negative' ratio for rapid antigen testing has not been disclosed.

Son Young-rae, head of the social strategy division at the Central Accident Resolving Headquarters, said, "The rapid antigen test shows a high level of accuracy in the case of negative results.


In Korea, 'rapid antigen test → PCR'...

overseas?

Since the accuracy is poor, even if a 'positive' test is found, it is the policy of our quarantine authorities that it should be confirmed once more with a more accurate PCR test.

However, in 20 countries around the world, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, if the rapid antigen test is positive, treatment begins immediately without PCR test.

Why?


Take a look at the graph above.

In the case of Omicron mutation, the amount of virus starts to increase from the 3rd day of infection and decreases on the 8th day.

The long line at the bottom is the PCR test.

Even a small amount of the virus tests positive.

The rapid antigen test is top-notch, but a positive result is obtained only when the amount of virus is high.

Of course, if the rapid antigen test is positive, there is a very high probability that it will also be positive in the PCR.

According to a recent Canadian study, this probability was 99.95%.

Therefore, in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, if the rapid antigen test is positive, it is immediately judged as a confirmed person without PCR test.



The problems are A and B shown in the graph.

Looking at A and B, it is positive in PCR, but negative in rapid antigen test.

This is the 'fake voice' mentioned earlier.

(The U.S. quarantine guidelines state that if the rapid antigen test is positive, the infection is correct, but if it is negative, it is not necessarily an infection.)



Then, why is the rapid antigen test expanded to the extent of accepting these errors?

This is because the number of tests has increased significantly along with the surge in the number of confirmed cases.

It is estimated that if there are 10,000 confirmed cases per day, 500,000 actual tests were performed, and if there were 30,000 confirmed cases, 1.5 million tests were performed.

However, domestic PCR tests are limited to 850,000 per day.

It has already exceeded the limit of PCR testing.

The UK tests 17 people per 1,000 people a day, compared to 4 in Korea, which is about a quarter of the population.



Currently, it takes 2-3 days for the PCR test result to come out, but as the test is delayed, the treatment is also delayed by that much.

If you receive a 'positive' test for rapid antigen and wait for the PCR test result, it will inevitably take longer than this.

Therefore, about 20 countries classify positive rapid antigen test as confirmed, but are taking the method of repeating the test to increase accuracy.

Professor Oh Myung-don of the Central Clinical Committee for Emerging Infectious Diseases emphasizes, "Rapid antigen testing can be more useful to effectively use a treatment that needs to be administered within 5 days of symptom onset."

It can be interpreted as meaning that the rapid antigen test, which allows you to know the result immediately even if the accuracy is low, is more suitable for Omicron, which has more than four times the propagation power of delta, than PCR, which is accurate but takes a long time.

How many hidden patients are there?

"Up to 10 times the level"


Even though there are 50,000 confirmed cases per day, many are surprised, but experts estimate that the actual number of confirmed cases is much higher than this.

The above graph was published by Columbia University in the United States on the 6th.

The bottom is the number of corona confirmed cases, and the top is the estimated number of actual patients.

After the Omicron epidemic, the actual number of patients is expected to be up to 10 times higher than the number of confirmed cases.




Take a look at the results of a study conducted by Imperial College London, UK.

In the UK, between October and November of last year, the number of cold cases surged.

Orange on the graph is a cold patient.

The research team also conducted COVID-19 tests on cold patients.

What happened?

The blue graph showing the corona confirmed soars.

The number of coronavirus cases has risen sharply, and the number of cold cases has plummeted.

Most of the people who thought it was a cold were confirmed to be COVID-19.

Omicron has a low severity and fatality rate compared to its strong radio wave power.

This is why most countries are shifting quarantine measures around high-risk groups that can lead to serious illness and death.


How do I get diagnosed...

'Self-rescue' and 'Self-treatment'?

Even if I am confirmed, I have to treat myself by myself. What should I do?

Mild and asymptomatic confirmed patients will be treated at home.

Home treatment patients are divided into an intensive care group (high-risk group) and a general management group.

The intensive management group is those who are determined to need intensive management among those who are over 60 years of age and those who are taking medications (underlying disease patients over 50 years old, immunocompromised).

Medical staff check the condition by phone twice a day.

A thermometer, oxygen saturation meter, self-test kit, fever reducer, and disinfectant are provided.

The general management group must check the condition of the body on their own.

Kits are not provided.

It is a good idea to prepare a thermometer, antipyretic analgesic, and general cold medicine in advance.




During home treatment, if your condition, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, does not improve, you can receive phone consultations and prescriptions.

There are about 2,500 respiratory clinics and government-designated local hospitals and clinics.

Telephone consultations are possible once a day.

If you cannot contact a hospital or clinic, you can also receive counseling and treatment at the 24-hour home treatment medical counseling center (145 locations nationwide).

If it is determined that the patient is in a serious condition after a phone consultation, face-to-face treatment is also possible.

They receive treatment at 70 short-term outpatient clinics nationwide.



In theory, the treatment process proposed by the government is as follows.

But the voice of the field is different.

According to reporters covering the field, it is difficult to make phone calls, let alone face-to-face treatment with a respiratory clinic.

There are also voices of 'stay at home' among home therapists.

Experts say that if symptoms worsen during home treatment and you do not reach a doctor quickly, you should consider getting help from 911.

What if the family was confirmed?

Changed Containment Standards


According to the revised guidelines, all confirmed patients will be quarantined for 7 days, regardless of their vaccination history or symptoms.

The time to calculate the quarantine period is the 'sample collection date' regardless of whether or not symptoms are present.

There is no need for PCR testing before release from quarantine, and the general management group is automatically released without notice.

After the release, you must wear a mask for 3 days and refrain from visiting vulnerable facilities.



Isolation standards for close contacts have also been relaxed.

Until now, all close contacts of the confirmed person had to self-quarantine, but now only those who have not been vaccinated among those living together and those who have been in close contact in a facility vulnerable to infection need to be quarantined for 7 days.

There are three types of facilities vulnerable to infection: ▲ long-term care institutions such as nursing hospitals and facilities, day care centers, ▲ mental health facilities, and ▲ facilities for the disabled.

In other facilities, even close contacts are subject to self-management without isolation.

If suspicious symptoms appear, contact the public health center.



Daily necessities needed during home treatment must be purchased through the family living with the patient, and those living with the confirmed case are allowed to go out for essential purposes, such as purchasing and receiving food and medicines.

If you have a self-test kit, it is better to go out after confirming the negative.


School attendance at 'less than 15% of confirmed and quarantined'...

Is the school in charge of quarantine?

Parents and the educational field are confused by the new school rules changed ahead of the new school year in March.

Education authorities are pushing for normal school attendance.

The main point is that schools with less than 3% of the current students with new confirmed cases or 15% of students who have stopped attending school due to confirmation or self-isolation will return to school entirely.

The Ministry of Education announced on the 7th the 'Omicron response to the first semester of 2022 school quarantine and university management plan'.



The biggest change is that schools decide on the risk level and decide how to run the school 'autonomously'.

The content is that schools, not quarantine authorities, conduct their own epidemiological investigations to classify and manage close contacts.




Among those in close contact with the confirmed person, asymptomatic individuals should receive a rapid antigen test kit upon returning from school and be tested at home.

The Ministry of Education said that it has secured 6.5 million rapid antigen test kits, which can be used by 20% of all students and faculty during the month of March.

In addition, a mobile PCR diagnostic laboratory will be installed at the provincial and provincial education offices, and a mobile sample team will be operated in parallel.

School quarantine guidelines can be found on the Ministry of Education website (www.moe.go.kr) or at the Student Health Information Center.



(Composition: Senior Correspondent Lee Hyun-sik (D Content Production Committee member), Reporter Jang Seon-i / Designer: Myung Ha-eun, Park Jeong-ha)

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