False readings from self-test kits could have led to spike in Korea’s Covid-19 cases

FALSE negative test readings from Covid-19 self-test kits are believed to be one of the causes for the spike in new cases in South Korea.

Health authorities said there was a possibility of such “silent spreaders” due to false results of self-testing kits.

Those who had tested negative could have been spreading the virus unknowingly to their close contacts before finally testing positive.

However no figures are available on the numbers of such cases, according to a report in the Korea Times.

Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters’ epidemiologic investigator Park Young-joon told local media that there was a possibility that some who tested positive had initially got a negative result through the self-testing kits.

Some medical experts are now pointing out that the government should have conducted monitoring and collected more data on the efficacy of the kits before approving them for public sale.

The testing kits have been available in the South Korea since late April as they offered a much faster result and more convenient to use.

But their accuracy was in question even before they went on sale.

A research team led by infectious medicine professor Kim Nam-joong at Seoul National University Hospital had previously found that the sensitivity of one self-testing kit was only 17.5 per cent of the PCR test although manufacturers claimed a sensitivity rate of over 90 per cent.

Medical experts say this could have been a contributing factor to the fourth wave of the pandemic in South Korea, where daily new cases were more than 1,000 for the past 10 days.

Other causes include the presence of the highly contagious Delta variant and the easing of social distancing rules.

However, some experts say the self-testing kits played a useful role in finding asymptomatic patients.

“The self-testing kits are already widely used in the United States and the United Kingdom,” said Chon Eun-mi, a professor of respiratory medicine at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital.

She said that more data was needed before blaming silent spreaders who used self-testing kits as a cause of the fourth wave.

Chon added that the priority now should be focusing on increasing the number of tests and finding the asymptomatic cases as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, The Times said that Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum has urged local governments outside Seoul to also consider banning private gatherings of more than four people.

This is due to fears that the coronavirus could spread to these regions with more people travelling in the summer holiday season.

“Considering the balloon effect and the increase in travel during the summer holiday season, tougher quarantine measures should be considered to curb the country’s daily new virus cases.”

The local government of Jeju Island, one of the most popular holiday destinations in the country, had already decided to raise its social distancing rules to Level 3 starting Monday.

Under this level, private gatherings of five or more are prohibited, and restaurants and cafes can only operate until 10pm, while nightlife entertainment facilities will be closed.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said South Korea recorded 1,454 new cases as of Sunday morning, raising the total caseload to 177,951.

It hit a new high of 1,615 on Wednesday and the death toll is now 2,057 people. – NST ONLINE

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