Seoul, November 5: With the onset of winter, and experts round the globe warning of an imminent second wave, South Korean medical authorities decided to approve the use of a single test to detect both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza. The latter, a disease recurring in colder months each year, would also be diagnosed through the same samples that will be collected for testing coronavirus, officials in the South East Asian nation said.
The new test is an evolved version of PCR tests, which can target genes that are specific to both COVID-19 and seasonal flu. The test will be based on the swab samples collected either through the nose or the mouth of a person. The samples would be amplified under laboratory machines to find "even tiny quantities" of both the virus. Second Wave of COVID-19: From Germany to France, List of Countries Going Into Lockdown 2.
Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho, during a press briefing, said the new move will help the authorities to identify, isolate and treat those infected with the virus. The fresh PCR test comes at a time when South Korea has reported fresh infections, and authorities are struggling to trace the contacts as social distancing curbs have been eased.
“Despite efforts by health authorities to trace contacts and suppress transmissions, such efforts have been outpaced by the speed of viral spread,” Yoon was reported as saying.
The illnesses are hard to tell apart by their symptoms, so having a diagnosis for both in three to six hours “would be convenient for patients and also reduce the burden of medical workers,” the official added.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, the country's top medical body in-charge of preventing communicable diseases, reported 118 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday. Most of the new cases were centred in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area. Across South Korea, the tally of infections stoof at 26,925, including 474 deaths.