Anti-epidemic center considers introducing rapid antigen inspection

By Lim Chang-won Posted : November 30, 2020, 17:05 Updated : November 30, 2020, 17:05

[Yonhap New Photo]

SEOUL -- South Korea's state anti-epidemic center is under pressure to ease its tough stance and introduce a rapid antigen inspection of vulnerable facilities such as nursing and mental hospitals that require frequent pre-emptive checks to thwart the invasion of COVID-19.

At least one rapid antigen test kit has been approved for commercial use in South Korea, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). "We are preparing for a pilot project in order to introduce rapid antigen testing for workers at high-risk facilities such as nursing and mental hospitals," KDCA head Jeong Eun-kyeong told a press briefing on November 30.

South Korea has adopted a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method that amplifies specific DNA samples. The method takes hours to get results but it has been used widely due to reliability. Rapid test kits have been approved only for urgent surgery.

Along with RT-PCR, South Korean companies have developed antibody and antigen diagnostic kits. However, Jeong has been reluctant to use them, insisting the accuracy of antigen and antibody tests is lower than genetic testing. However, she eased her stance in the face of a quick increase in the number of COVID-19 patients. 

"The exposure of high-risk facilities has increased through those working at medical institutions and nursing homes," Jeong said, adding guidelines would be worked out for how to apply antigen test kits. She did not disclose any brand name. Celltrion has unveiled a portable antigen rapid test kit to support the early detection of COVID-19 patients in clinical settings.

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