The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in South Korea reached 2,434 on Friday, replacing the previous daily record of 2,221 on Aug. 11. A number of new patients have been produced among people who had family gatherings over the Chuseok holiday when social distancing was temporarily relaxed. It missed the disease control authorities’ prediction that the number of new daily patients would peak between 2,000 and 2,300 around Monday during the fourth wave, which begun at the end of June.
What’s worrisome is that the number of new cases is likely to increase further in the next week when the effect of travels during the holiday would unfold, given the incubation period of three to five days. While South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he would consider a transition to the ‘With Corona’ system once the vaccination rate exceeds 70 percent at the end of next month, the gradual recovery of normal lives will face challenges if the trend continues. It is crucial to follow basic disease control guidelines, such as wearing a mask and frequently opening windows for ventilation, to prevent additional infections, as well as to get tested proactively even with minor symptoms.
In addition, the best efforts should be made to increase the country’s vaccination rate. As of Friday, 72.3 percent of South Korean people received the first dose and 44 percent received both the first and second doses. The number of people who haven’t been vaccinated at all due to worries about potential side effects is 5.78 million and only 150,000 of them, or 2.7 percent, have made reservations for vaccination. Ninety percent of new cases are produced among those who haven’t been vaccinated or received only the first dose. Those who have completed vaccination have a 77 percent less chance of becoming seriously ill even after being infected. Vaccination is the precondition for the ‘With Corona’ system to ensure the safety of people and society and should not be delayed any longer.
The treatment delivery system should be urgently built for limited medical resources to focus on serious cases in case of relaxed social distancing with the ‘With Corona’ system. The disease control authorities estimate that the maximum number of cases that the current medial system can handle is 3,000. Eighty percent of new cases at the moment either have no or light symptoms. The country should add more beds for severe patients and expand the at-home treatment option for patients with light symptoms across the country, which is currently limited to Gyeonggi Province, to boost the efficiency of sickbeds.