Fear grows over resurgence of infections due to Chuseok gatherings

Fear grows over resurgence of infections due to Chuseok gatherings

People wait to take COVID-19 tests at a testing site set up at a public health center in Jeju, Wednesday. Yonhap

By Bahk Eun-ji

Concerns are growing over the possibility of the current fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic worsening, as the number of infections is feared to surge again following family gatherings during the Chuseok holidays.

While infections in Seoul and the surrounding area still account for 77 percent of the nation’s total, a further spike in cases in areas outside of the capital area is expected, as many residents of the Seoul metropolitan area visited their hometowns during the holiday period.

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), Wednesday, the number of daily new infection cases during the holiday period, from Saturday to Tuesday, ranged between 1,604 and 1,909, which is much higher than the range of 1,375-1,485, which has been tallied on weekends for the past month before the holidays.

For Tuesday, 1,720 new infections were reported, out of some 100,000 people who were tested for the virus. Considering the fact that 160,000-180,000 tests have been conducted per day on weekdays in recent weeks, the number of infections is anticipated to exceed 2,000 again in a couple of days, after the holiday finishes on Wednesday.

The government had urged people to refrain from traveling and gathering to prevent the spread of COVID-19, out of concerns that asymptomatic patients or unconfirmed cases with mild symptoms could spread the virus to their relatives during the holiday season.

But, perhaps due to pandemic fatigue, many people apparently ignored the government’s call, and the traffic authorities estimated that the number of vehicles using highways during the holiday increased by 3.5 percent compared to last year’s Chuseok.

“We saw a considerable increase in people traveling throughout the country, even before the Chuseok holiday, and we believe that there has been more travel during the holiday period, raising the possibility of an increase in the number of infections,” Lee Sang-won, an official of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, said in a regular virus response briefing, Monday.

To prevent people being infected by relatives returning home and to work unknowingly carrying the virus, public health authorities have asked people to take coronavirus tests upon returning from their hometowns, and has set up temporary testing centers at major rest areas along highways.

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