Moderna to supply Covid-19 vaccine to S. Korea in May

Cars wait in line for Covid-19 tests at an outdoor testing site in Goyang, west of Seoul. - The South Korea Herald/Asian News Network

SEOUL, Jan 2 (The Korea Herald/ANN): US biotech firm Moderna is slated to provide 40 million doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine as early as March, according to news reports.

The move came after the Korean government on Thursday (Dec 31) inked a deal with the company to purchase vaccine doses for 20 million or more people.

"Under the terms of the proposed agreement, deliveries would begin in May 2021,” the company said in a statement.

"Covid-19 vaccine is not currently approved for use in South Korea, and the company will work with regulators to pursue the necessary approvals prior to distribution."

The Moderna COovid-19 vaccine, which is authorised for emergency use in the United States and Canada, has not been officially approved in South Korea.

Following the supply, the country will secure enough vaccines for 56 million people in total, which can cover the country’s population of nearly 52 million, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases fell below 900 on Saturday (Jan 2), largely due to less testing over the New Year's Day holiday, as health authorities kept tight vigilance with the extension of the current social distancing rules.

The country added 824 more Covid-19 cases, including 788 local infections, raising the total caseload to 62,593, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). It reported 25 additional deaths from Covid-19, raising the death toll to 942.

The latest infection count marked a decrease from 1,029 cases Friday. The country logged 807 cases Monday, 1,045 cases Tuesday, 1,050 cases Wednesday and 967 cases Thursday. Over the past seven days, the daily tallies have hovered around 1,000.

The drop in new cases appears attributable to less testing. On Friday, 53,540 people received Covid-19 tests, compared with 101,176 on Thursday.

The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters decided to extend the current Level 2.5 distancing measures -- the second highest in the five-tier scheme -- for the greater Seoul area and Level 2 for the rest of the country until Jan. 17.

South Korea also decided to apply the ban to private gatherings of five or more people, which has been in place for the greater Seoul area, to the rest of the country.

The authorities opted not to raise distancing to the highest level in consideration of its impact on the local economy, as the single-day virus tallies have hovered around 1,000 without a sudden upsurge -- an apparent sign that social distancing measures are paying off.

"In consideration of the fact that we have maintained our quarantine and medical response capabilities as of yet, and in consideration of the potential shock to the economy, we will not raise the scheme to Level 3, which involves a ban on the operation of facilities used by many people," Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told a press briefing.

"We will make our best efforts to mobilize pan-government capabilities to restore citizens' normal lives," he added.

The authorities struggled to avoid resorting to the most stringent distancing level, which would mean serious restrictions on millions of small merchants and other businesses. - The Korea Herald/Asian News Network
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