S. Korea to consider shift to ‘living with COVID-19’ at end of October: top health official

The chief of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said Tuesday the nation will be able to control the coronavirus enough to consider moving into a phase of “living with COVID-19” as early as the end of next month.

South Korea is ramping up its vaccination campaign to ensure 70 percent of its population get their first shot before the Sept. 20-22 Chuseok holiday, and create herd immunity in November.

During a parliamentary committee session, KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said the country will be ready by the end of October to shift its strategy from suppressing the virus to managing it while living a normal life.

Jeong made the remark when asked by Rep. Shin Hyun-young when she expects the nation will be able to adopt “living with COVID-19” that the lawmaker said requires fully inoculating 90 percent of the elderly and 80 percent of adults.

“We aim to complete the work as much as possible by the end of October,” she said. “I think we will be able to consider applying ‘living with COVID-19’ (from that time).”

On Monday, President Moon Jae-in also raised the possibility of such a shift, citing headway in the vaccination campaign.

“With the vaccination rate rising, if the COVID-19 situation is alleviated, we will be able to explore a gradual transition to a new virus control and prevention system to be harmonious with daily life,” he said during a weekly meeting with senior Cheong Wa Dae aides.

During the parliamentary session, Jeong said the government plans to offer vaccines to elementary school children in the fourth quarter of the year.

“We aim to prepare detailed implementation plans within September and conduct vaccinations from the fourth quarter,” she said.

But the KDCA is not considering vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 as its effectiveness and safety have yet to be proven, she added.

As for booster shots, Chung said the government will set up plans while looking into clinical results and data from other countries.

She said the government is considering administering the mRNA vaccines if it decides to proceed with additional shots for fully vaccinated people.

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