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2022 Joint Action Plans for fight against COVID-19: MOHW, MOIS, MFDFS, KDCA

  • Date : 2022-01-14
  • Hit : 157

2022 Joint Action Plans for fight against COVID-19: MOHW, MOIS, MFDFS, KDCA

Government Stands Responsible for Change Co-Created with the People

PRESS RELEASE

Dec 31, 2021

Core Tasks for 2022

Bring a timely recovery to the current crisis and gradually recover to a new normal

- Establish a medical response system that protects the lives and safety of citizens

- Promote vaccination and improve response measures to adverse events

- Reorganize the social distancing rule to support a gradual return to normal life

- Operate a flawless public health management system

Establish the foundation for “living with COVID-19” by building a sustainable disease control and prevention system

- Prepare long-term solutions by introducing, utilizing, and developing COVID-19 vaccines and antiviral treatments

- Improve diagnosis/analysis and epidemiological investigation to build a sustainable surveillance system

- Establish a medical response system that can handle needs in times of public health crisis

- Expand national regulations to support innovative health and medical products

On December 30, 2021, under the slogan of “Government Stands Responsible for the Change Co-Created with the People”, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, and Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency announced the joint action plans for combating COVID-19.

1. Bring a timely recovery to the current crisis and gradually recover to a new normal

- Establish a medical response system that protects the lives and safety of citizens

1. To support a sustainable medical capacity that is in line with the ‘gradual return to normal life’ policy, the government has introduced at-home treatment plan. Under this plan, all confirmed patients receive at-home treatment unless hospitalization is required otherwise. As soon as patients are confirmed, they receive at-home treatment kits delivered to their home and medical experts monitor their health conditions on a daily basis.

The government will increase the number of medical facilities up to 300 that will handle at-home treatment patients by designating more medical clinics. If necessary, patients can have non-face-to-face diagnosis and medicine prescriptions.

At the same time, more than 70 outpatient care centers will be provided nationwide so that at-home patients can have face-to-face diagnostic tests and treatment during at-home treatment.

Also, to address financial issues caused by at-home treatment, the government will provide additional living support to fully vaccinated people, vaccinated/unvaccinated people who had recovered from COVID-19, and a few exceptions.

** An increase of living support from KRW 339,000-1,069,000 to KRW 559,000-1,549,000 for single to give-person households

2. The government will secure additional 6,900 hospital beds by the end of January to enable the country’s medical system to handle 10,000 new confirmed cases a day. To do so, it will issue and enforce administrative orders, encourage participation from national university hospitals, order public hospitals to clear all hospital beds, secure additional base hospitals, etc. to mobilize as many resources as possible.

Special-purpose beds will be exclusively provided, such as for dialysis or childbirth. Special beds will also be secured for Covid-19 designated nursing hospitals and mental health facilities. The government also plans to introduce modular hospital beds.

To make sure patients in need of intensive care receive timely treatment, the government will focus on promoting efficient medical service throughout all stages of hospital care, from hospitalization to discharge.

For instance, the government will allow more patients to use anti-body drugs in a timely manner. When a patient is released from quarantine but refuses to leave medical facility without a valid reason, the patient may be charged with medical expenses. Evaluation for the appropriateness of hospital stay will be strengthened, while the criteria for quarantine release will be clarified. When a hospital transfers a patient to a general medical facility, the government will provide incentives to both facilities.

To minimize bed wait times in hospitals, the government will develop an integrated information system that shares the patient and hospital bed data in real-time, establish a standard operating procedure, and train staff to allocate beds more efficiently.

The government will set up the Emergency Hospital Bed and Medical Response Taskforce, headed by the Minister of Health and Welfare, to make sure hospital beds are secured and effectively operate and support timely response to problems at the forefront. Within the taskforce, on-site medical support teams will be organized to monitor the implementation of the plan on a daily basis.

3. To operate the additional hospital beds secured at hospitals, the government will mobilize military medical officers and public health doctors and allocate them to intensive care hospitals. Also, intensive care nurses (about 250) will be put into service immediately after they complete intensive care education. Military training of new medical officers (those who volunteer to treat COVID-19 patients) and public health doctors (specialist physicians) will be either postponed or shortened so they can serve at intensive care hospitals.

As per the agreement between the government and the Korea Health and Medical Worker’s Union, the government will provide infection risk compensation for about 20,000 medical workers who treat COVID-19 patients in hospital beds in order to boost their morale and improve working conditions.

In addition, the government will provide increased compensation for losses incurred by hospitals that cooperated in providing sickbeds for patients with severe, semi-severe, and moderate symptoms (the amount of compensation differs from types and utilization of beds). Compensation will also be paid for some time after hospitals cease to provide sickbeds for patients, considering the time required for recovery. The government is currently considering how to calculate such period of recovery when designated base hospitals clear all licensed beds.

4. To look after the mental wellbeing of patients who receive COVID-19 treatment at home, the government will conduct regular mental health checkups via mobile application and provide counseling services for high-risk patients in association with local mental health welfare centers. In addition, the government will operate more “Heart Relief Buses” that visit designated hospitals and screening stations and provide in-person mental health services for medical workers.

- Promote vaccination and improve response measures to adverse events

1. The government plans to promote booster shots for all adults 18 and older in order to contain the spread of the Omicron variant and help patients prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms. Vaccination of booster shots is gaining speed at the moment; the interval between the second shots and boosters is shorted from four/five months to three months, and senior citizens can have booster shots at clinics without booking an appointment. The government plans to complete booster shots for the general public by the end of the first quarter.

In particular, the government will improve convenience for those aged 60 or older, which is the population at higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, by supporting vaccination appointments and physical access to clinics (e.g. provide a taxi or bus or visit senior citizens in person). Medical officers and other public resources will be mobilized to facilitate vaccination at nursing hospitals and medical facilities.

2. To address public fear and anxiety of COVID-19 vaccination, the government will provide a timely response to adverse events following vaccination in cooperation with the medical community and medical experts.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Safety Committee will have an in-depth review of significant adverse event reports and consult medical experts to lay the scientific foundation for causality assessment.

To assuage public fear and anxiety, the government will engage in proactive communication with the public by launching designated hotlines to handle adverse event reports and providing information that increases vaccine confidence via mass media channels.

In addition, the authority to provide compensation regarding damages from COVID-19 vaccine will be delegated to the heads of local governments (i.e. mayors and provincial governors) to facilitate payment of compensation. Financial support to those who experience adverse events will be strengthened as well; compensation of KRW 50 million is a new addition for deaths that are not causally linked to vaccinations (per person), and the compensation coverage for medical expenses increased from KRW 10 million to KRW 30 million per person.

- Reorganize the social distancing rule to support a gradual return to normal life

1. The government will take diverse measures to control the ongoing spread of the virus and overcome the crisis. Currently, to control the spread of the Omicron variant and restructure the public health system, strengthened COVID-19 restrictions have been in place instead of pursuing a gradual return to normal life. Such strengthened measures include a four-person cap on private gatherings, operating hour limits for restaurants and cafes, a cap on gatherings and events at religious facilities, introduction of the vaccine pass at restaurants, etc.

After January 2, 2012, the government will adjust the social distancing measures based on the results of risk assessment by Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, the effect of control measures on COVID-19 transmission, the strain on healthcare capacity, etc.

2. Once the COVID-19 situation is stabilized, the government will pursue a gradual return to normal life within manageable levels. The social distancing measures will be revamped as well by focusing more on reducing the severity and fatality cases rather than implementing universal restrictions, and considering a wide range of factors such as hospital bed utilization, the emergence of new variants, the progress of booster shots (i.e. third does), etc.

The vaccine pass requirement at multi-use facilities will be lifted starting from low-risk facilities, considering their indoor/outdoor environment and crowd density. If events and gatherings are allowed to fully vaccinated people, the cap on gathering size may also be eased.

3. The government will continuously improve the COVID-19 risk assessment system, which serves as an index to determine a gradual return to normal life, to improve the accuracy of assessment. There are three types of risk assessment; weekly assessment (in which risks of the previous week are assessed), monthly assessment (in which risks of the previous 4 weeks are assessed), and emergency assessment (in which risk in emergency situation are assessed)

The government will continue to support COVID-19 policy decision-making by closely monitoring the situation and collecting information regarding the emergence of new risks, such as the Omicron variant. Since November 1, 2021, COVID-19 risk assessment has been conducted on a weekly basis.

- Operate a flawless public health management system

1. Eight central administrative agencies including the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, and the National Police Agency and local governments set up the Second Intra-government Special Safety Inspection Team to control the spread of COVID-19.

The main responsibilities of the Special Safety Inspection Team are to inspect high-risk facilities in the Greater Seoul area (i.e. Seoul, Incheon, Gyeonggi-do). In the case of violation of COVID-19 control measures, businesses may be subject to charges, suspension of business, fines, etc. From November 22 to December 17, 2021, the Special Safety Inspection Team identified 6,645 violations.

2. The government will continue to improve the functions of the Self-quarantine Self Protection App so that health conditions and locations of those under self-quarantine can be monitored more effectively. At the same time, such application improvement can lessen the workload of civil servants who manage people under self-quarantine.

2. Establish the foundation for “living with COVID-19” by building a sustainable disease control and prevention system

- Prepare long-term solutions by introducing, utilizing, and developing COVID-19 vaccines and antiviral treatments

1. The government plans to secure additional COVID-19 vaccines proactively in order to prepare for the uncertainties ahead. To make sure there will no disruption in the supply of vaccines, it earmarked to spend KRW 2.6 trillion in 2022 to secure 90 million doses of vaccine (i.e. 60 million doses from Pfizer, 20 million doses from Moderna, and 10 million doses from SK Bioscience).

To facilitate timely and safe introduction of vaccines, the government will maintain its fast-track import system for new vaccines specific to certain variants and operate the national lot release system along with the drug approval process (from 2-3 months to less than 20 days).

2. The government will expand the application of antiviral treatment to prevent patients from developing severe illness from COVID-19. In particular, it will provide domestically developed antiviral drugs for diverse types of medical institutions (including nursing hospitals and general hospitals with COVID-19 patients, residential treatment centers, nursing homes, etc.) and speed up the drug supply system (from next-day delivery to direct supply from local designated hospitals).

In addition, the government plans to secure 1 million courses of oral antiviral pills. Currently, it pre-ordered antiviral pills for 604 thousand people (362 thousand courses from Pfizer and 242 thousand from MSD), which will be provided to patients at designated infectious disease hospitals or at home.

On December 27, 2021, the government reviewed the safety and efficacy of Pfizer's antiviral pills and authorized for emergency use of the pills. It will further focus on reviewing emergency authorization of additional drugs, including MSD’s pills.

  1. The government plans to build a global vaccine hub by supporting domestic COVID-19 vaccine and treatment manufacturing companies. To this end, government-wide support will be provided for a wide range of activities from doing fundamental research to building and developing R&D and production infrastructure. In 2021, the government budget for domestic vaccine and treatment development increased from KRW 283 billion to 432.7 billion (including supplementary budget) and for 2022 budget, it increased to 545.7 billion.

The government will provide full support to the phase three clinical trial of Korea’s first home-developed vaccine to enable its successful commercialization within first half of 2022. In addition, it will designate additional residential treatment centers to handle domestic drugs’ clinical trial process. The government support will include other efforts, such as pre-ordering 10 million doses of domestic vaccines, recruiting participants for clinical trials, supporting clinical trials overseas with foreign diplomatic embassies, enabling clinical trial sample analysis at national laboratories, supporting the supply of raw materials, securing comparator vaccines, etc.

To support early commercialization of domestic vaccines, the government will provide customized consultation and form a biotech consortium with the Vaccine Safety Technology Center, Korea Biomedicine Industry Association, and four major biotech companies. A consultative group for antiviral treatment development will also be set up to address issues arising from the clinical trial process.

A wide range of support will be provided to vaccine raw and subsidiary materials business, e.g. performance tests of raw and subsidiary materials, preferential treatment for policy funds provided by Korea SMEs and Startups Agency, analysis and assess to core patent data, etc.

In addition, the government plans to attract a WHO global BioHub for human resources development to Korea and establish plans to develop next-generation vaccines other than COVID-19 vaccines.

- Improve diagnosis/analysis and epidemiological investigation to build a sustainable surveillance system

1. The country’s COVID-19 diagnosis and analysis system will be strengthened to enable timely and efficient response to COVID-19. Considering an increase of inbound and outbound international travelers and emergence of new variants overseas, the government will expand the local surveillance network for whole-genome sequencing analysis to improve responses to new COVID-19 variants.

Screening clinics and temporary screening stations, which currently operate independently, will be consolidated. The current testing information system will be enhanced to improve the efficiency of COVID-19 diagnosis and testing.

As the demand for COVID-19 testing continues to increase, the government will monitor the supply and demand of COVID-19 diagnostic devices and testing reagents and their price trends at all times to ensure their consistent supply. Also, it will provide full support to introduce and grant licenses to new diagnostic tests that detect new variants more effectively or perform a series of testing process, from extraction to amplification and detection, automatically and more conveniently.

2. The government will focus on improving the national capacity for epidemiological investigation in order to control the transmission of COVID-19 in a timely manner.

With the help of digital tracing, the government aims to improve the accuracy and speed of information collection used for epidemiological investigation. To this end, medical information registered on the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service and immigration records will be digitally managed, saving time for data collection (from 1-2 days to less than 1 hour).

Each local government will increase the size of preliminary epidemiological investigation teams to better respond to a potential increase of new infections. In December 2021, more than 700 people were mobilized to support administrative tasks for epidemiological investigation in Seoul, Gyeonggi, Incheon, and Busan; if necessary, additional resources from the military and police force may be mobilized to support contact tracing analysis, etc.

- Establish a medical response system that can handle needs in times of public health crisis

The government will newly establish one ‘central’ infectious disease hospital (from 2022 to 2026), supported by regional infectious disease hospitals (four are in existence and one will be newly designated) and local infectious disease hospitals.

Local public hospitals will be equipped with infectious disease infrastructure, such as emergency hospital beds and negative pressure isolation rooms.

The government plans to deploy more regular healthcare workers to community health centers, and earmark National Health Promotion Fund and government budget to support temporary staffing at community health centers. These measures will help establish a medical system that provides general health service in ordinary times and respond to disease outbreaks in an emergency.

- Expand national regulations to support innovative health and medical products

1. The government will improve its medical product safety evaluation system. Based on how the country has responded to COVID-19 during the past years, it will improve emergency use authorization process for medical products and conditions and procedures for fast-track licensing.

At the same time, the government will prepare legal grounds to compensate for adverse events that may arise from the use of medical products authorized for emergency use. In March 2022, the government will make revisions to the Special Act for Promotion of the Development and Emergency Supply of Medical Products in Response to Public Health Crisis.

New vaccine platforms that meet the global standards and treatment assessment technology will be developed, along with advanced guidelines for approval and evaluation. To be specific, development of technology for assessment of safety, efficacy and quality of mRNA and adenovirus will be carried out from 2022 to 2025, with KRW 5.5 billion investment a year.

The government will strengthen international cooperation in regulation by monitoring overseas outbreaks of infectious diseases, exchanging regulatory information (e.g. approval guidelines), establishing international standards and participating in global reviews.

* Designated as WHO Listed Authorities and participated in vaccines prequalification review

2. The government will support businesses to effectively commercialize medical products by introducing regulation consultation services throughout the entire product life cycle. First of all, it will introduce technology-regulation conformity assessment that evaluates regulatory requirements, product classification, safety and efficacy, and the need to develop assessment methods for medical devices and products developed by national R&D projects.

Previously, prior consultation was provided by products, but new regulation consultation will be divided into specialized areas, e.g. quality, non-clinical, clinical assessment, throughout the product life cycle to minimize commercialization failures. The government plans to set up a Commercialization Support Center to support systematic and customized regulatory service.

At the same time, the government plans to nurture regulatory professionals (researchers at private institutes as well as practical experts) and enhance the expertise of the evaluators, creating an advanced regulatory ecosystem.

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