Seventh Covid wave may peak soon
More than 47,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, about 1,000 more than a week before as the nation enters yet another wave of the pandemic.
While some experts believe that the seventh wave could peak in the coming days, the government has refrained from announcing any timetables, saying nothing could be determined at this point.
At the same time, however, health officials said they were preparing to ensure enough hospital beds in case the nation sees up to 200,000 new patients a day.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Sunday morning, 47,028 people tested positive for Covid on Saturday, 1,030 more than a week earlier.
Saturday’s figure was 5,760 fewer than the day before, largely because fewer people get tested on weekends because there are fewer Covid-19 testing sites open.
Over the past week, an average of 54,119 people tested positive for Covid each day.
Among Saturday’s figure, 70 were imported.
The highest number of new patients came from Gyeonggi with 12,984, followed by Seoul with 9,160.
Incheon, South Gyeongsang, North Gyeongsang, Busan and Daegu saw figures between 2,000 and 3,000, while South Chungcheong, North Jeolla, Daejeon, North Chungcheong, Gwangju, South Jeolla and Gangwon saw figures between 1,000 and 2,000.
Ulsan, Sejong and Jeju Island saw figures below 1,000.
There were 481 patients in critical or serious condition, three more than the previous day. It was the third consecutive increase and the ninth day in a row that the figure was above 400.
Thirty-nine people died, 13 fewer than on Friday. Some 40 to 60 people have been dying on a daily basis recently, reaching 67 on Nov. 16, the highest in 53 days.
The daily death toll had dropped to single-digits in early October when the sixth wave ended.
Aside from new coronavirus variants that have been driving up cases, experts say that a low rate of booster vaccinations among the elderly and the public’s nonchalance about the pandemic seem to be worsening the situation.
Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease professor at Korea University, blamed the government for failing to remind old people to get additional shots, saying their weakened immunity was putting them in danger.
“The government should have kept promoting the significance of additional vaccine shots, but it didn’t,” Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo.
“As of Nov. 18, only 11.3 percent of people in their 60s received additional vaccine shots for the winter, while some 20 percent did so for people in their 70s or above.”
Kim Tak, an infectious disease doctor at Soonchunhyang University, advised the government to devise a national vaccine plan recommending young people get one additional shot every year and people in high-risk groups get one additional shot every six months.
“It’s not realistic to re-impose social distancing measures,” said Eom Joon-sik, an infectious disease doctor at Gachon University. “But we might see 150, maybe even 200 deaths in a day during the peak [of the seventh wave] if booster shots aren’t administered.”
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]