In the 24 hours ending Wednesday midnight, Korea counted 2,152 more cases of COVID-19, up from the previous day’s 1,805. Over the past month, South Korea has been reporting an average of 1,652 cases a day, higher than the last wave’s peak of 1,240 cases seen in December.
Son Young-rae, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, explained during a closed-door briefing Thursday that cases usually dropped over the weekend when fewer tests take place and spike back again on Wednesdays.
Son said deaths have increased by 82 percent to 53 in the last week compared to the week before. But as vaccinations progress, deaths have not been rising as much as during previous waves, he added.
He said the government’s COVID-19 response task force was due to announce whether to extend the strictest tier of social distancing measures that have been in place for more than a month. Under the current tier, private gatherings of more than two people are banned after 6 p.m.
Dr. Eom Joong-sik, an infectious disease specialist at a designated COVID-19 hospital in Incheon, said that intensive care beds are increasingly being filled by younger patients, mostly in their 50s.
“Out of 13 people who died yesterday, four of them were in their 50s,” he said.
“This time it appears it’s the 50-somethings who are taking the hardest hit.”
August vaccination efforts are primarily focused on delivering first doses to people in their 50s. The fully vaccinated rate in the age cohort stands at 11 percent.
“Roughly 80 percent of Koreans aren’t fully vaccinated, and to defend against delta, receiving both doses is absolutely necessary,” he said. “It’s going to take some time before vaccination rates rise enough to be able to ease out of social distancing.
Eom said the string of outbreaks at adult entertainment facilities leading to July were “responsible for the surge we are seeing right now.”
Onetime Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Jung Ki-suck also pointed out that unlike during the winter surge, places with higher risks of contagion were still allowed to continue their operations.
“If we look at the transmission patterns, entertainment businesses such as karaoke bars have been driving the community outbreaks for some time,” he said. “Outbreaks at such facilities are harder to contact-trace because they are often run covertly,” he said, adding that contact tracing was failing in more than 30 percent of recently diagnosed cases.
Infectious disease professor Dr. Kim Woo-joo of Korea University agreed that tighter restrictions will be necessary for the long haul.
“Fall is approaching, when respiratory viruses typically circulate, and September is also when most people under 50 years of age are due their first doses,” he said. “We will need to keep the restrictions in place at least until then.”
So far in the month of August, 228,908 vaccine doses have been administered per day on average, much higher than the July’s daily average of 90,335. But this still falls far short of the government’s touted capacity of 1 million vaccinations a day.
By Kim Arin (email@example.com)Internet Explorer Channel Network