It has been 50 days since the first reported COVID-19 case in South Korea. As of Sunday, the country saw more than 7,100 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, 50 of which were dead. The COVID-19 outbreak, which has gone viral, seems to be slowing down although the total number of confirmed cases surpassed 5,300 and 1,000 in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, respectively, South Korea’s two hardest-hit regions. This is attributable to the fact that health authorities have almost brought to an end mass infection among Shincheonji followers across the two regions, which has been the worst culprit in the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Nonetheless, it is too early to feel relieved given that mass infections have still occurred sporadically at nursing homes, apartment complexes and the like. Over the weekend, South Korea saw the first case of an apartment block placed under cohort quarantine in Daegu’s Dalseo district as 46 residents of the Hanmaum Apartment tested positive for COVID-19. Of 142 residents of the apartment complex, 94 have turned out to be Shincheonji members. This only increases the need to keep a close eye to collective residential buildings to prevent the new coronavirus outbreak from further worsening.North Gyeongsang Province, recording 51 confirmed cases including 40 elderly members who reside in the long-term care facility. Given that nursing hospitals and homes mainly accommodate the elderly with underlying diseases, it is highly likely that viral infection can cause catastrophic scenarios once it starts within. Tight preparations should be made to carry out epidemiological investigations and quarantine measures as swift as possible right through a hotline with local authorities along with efforts to take stronger preventive actions at such infection-prone facilities.
Added to that, last week saw confirmed cases of pregnant women in Daegu and Busan. In response, health authorities reassured the public that there is a slim chance of vertical transmission. However, significant caution needs to be exercised given that it is likely for pregnant women and infants younger than three months old to exhibit severe symptoms due to their weak immune system once infected.
Currently, South Korea has the second largest number of COVID-19 patients in the world following China, the origin of the virus, that has so far recorded 80,695 confirmed patients and 3,097 victims. Even so, the country’s fatality rate has remained below one percent thanks to swift diagnosis, committed health authorities and medical professionals, and citizens who practice personal hygiene and keep a social distance. Despite some signs of the slowdown of the virus, pundits argue that the battle against COVID-19 will continue for some time because of its high transmissibility at a mild stage. What’s worse, community transmission is becoming a terrible reality in many regions including the United States, Italy, the Middle East, and even Japan. Efforts should be made to contain both small-scale outbreaks at home and the inflow of the novel coronavirus from overseas.