Starting Monday, the government stopped conducting daily health monitoring phone calls to high-risk Covid-19 patient groups, including those over 60 or immunocompromised people undergoing at-home treatment.

The government had classified those over 60 and immunocompromised people as the intensive at-home treatment group. Quarantine authorities checked their health status by phone daily until the end of their mandatory quarantine period.

Explaining the background of the decision, quarantine officials said that with the expansion of face-to-face treatment infrastructure and Covid-19 treatment prescriptions, the government aims to prevent the aggravation of the high-risk group by allowing all at-home treatment groups to receive face-to-face treatment.

As of midnight Sunday, there were 490,036 at-home treatment patients, of which 21,958 were in the intensive care group, accounting for 4.5 percent.

Officials reiterated that the move aims to encourage Covid-19 patients to visit clinics or hospitals for in-person care. However, some health experts expressed worried that the absence of the at-home treatment monitoring system may lead to high-risk groups not getting the proper care that they require.

The experts worried that elderly patients in the high-risk group might find it difficult to visit face-to-face medical institutions in case of emergency compared to younger people due to the lack of access to information and responsiveness.

The new Covid-19 cases fell below 50,000 on Monday on fewer virus tests during the weekend. Still, the number of seriously ill patients reached a two-month high amid a virus resurgence fueled by a highly contagious Omicron subvariant.

The country added 44,689 new Covid-19 infections, including 436 from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 19,820,739, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Monday's figure sharply fell from the previous day's 73,589 due mainly to fewer tests but is still larger than the 35,860 cases logged a week earlier, as the country has seen a resurgence of the virus, triggered by the spread of the Omicron subvariant BA.5.

The country reported 287 critical cases Monday, the highest figure after May 18, when the tally stood at 313.

The KDCA reported 21 deaths from Covid-19, raising the death toll to 25,068. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent.

Also, starting Monday, second booster shots started to be administered to people over 50 or 18 with compromised immune systems.

The government had been providing same-day vaccinations and advanced reservations after they expanded the group eligible for the second booster shot on July 18.

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), about 44.65 million among 52 million Koreans have been fully vaccinated. In addition, about 33.46 million people had received their first booster shots, and 5.69 million had their second booster shots.

Besides, the government has decided to reimburse Covid-19 test costs for asymptomatic people who have come into contact with confirmed patients.

From Tuesday, asymptomatic people who have come into contact with a confirmed patient can receive a professional rapid antigen test at a local hospital or clinic for only 5,000 won ($3.85).

The move follows rising complaints from asymptomatic people about paying about 50,000 won to receive the test.

However, the new insurance benefits do not include asymptomatic people who have not come into contact with a confirmed patient.

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