The government has announced several changes to its COVID-19 response system ahead of an expected surge in cases with omicron about to become the dominant strain next week.
According to health authorities on Friday, the government will offer PCR tests only to those considered to be at high risk for infection in the southwestern city of Gwangju, surrounding South Jeolla Province, and the Gyeonggi Province cities of Pyeongtaek and Anseong from Wednesday.
That's when the highly transmissible variant is expected to become the dominant strain in the nation. Omicron already exceeds 50 percent of COVID-19 cases in the four regions.
High-risk groups include those who have come into close contact with a COVID-19 patient, those with respiratory symptoms, seniors aged 60 or older, and those who tested positive on a rapid antigen test.
Those not at high risk can take the antigen test at home or private medical clinics.
Starting from Wednesday, the isolation period for fully vaccinated people will also be shortened from ten to seven days.
The government also decided to lower the age limit for COVID-19 treatment pills to 60 from the current 65 and older.
The prescription-only antiviral drug, which is currently administered only to patients undergoing home treatment and those at COVID-19 treatment centers, will be supplied via diverse channels such as nursing homes and hospitals treating infectious diseases.