With increasing breakthrough infections among seniors, the number of critical COVID-19 patients soared to 522, which is the highest figure ever, as of 12 a.m. Wednesday. The occupancy rate of sickbeds for critical patients is 61.5 percent across the nation and 76.7 percent in Seoul and nearby regions, which is over the threshold of 75 percent to suspend the “With Corona” system. “It is reaching a risky level in Seoul and nearby regions,” said Prime Minister Kim Bu-gyeom. The number of new patients recorded 3,187 on Wednesday, which is the second-highest figure since Sept.25 with 3,270 new patients.
The speed at which critical patients are increasing is exceeding the disease control authorities’ expectation when making a switch to the “With Corona” system. Despite 81.9 percent people having at least received the first dose and 78.4 percent having completed vaccination, the Delta variant is raging, especially causing breakthrough infections among those over 60 whose immunity is weakened. Seniors aged over 60 account for 84.3 percent of critical patients and 97 percent of deaths.
The government announced Tuesday that those over 60 or staying in care facilities will receive booster shots four months after the second dose and those in their 50s will receive them five months after the second dose, instead of the previous guideline of six months, to complete the administration of booster shots for 13.78 million people by the end of this year. According to the statistics of Israel, which has administered booster shots to its people, people who have received booster shots had a one-tenth chance of infection and a one-twentieth chance of developing critical symptoms compared to those who have only completed the second dose. As the Delta variant is still raging and viruses are more active in winter, booster shots should be administered at an accelerated pace.
The “With Corona” system is meant to endure an increase in new patients but under the current situation those with critical symptoms will also increase. While people’s travel has reduced a bit since last week, it will increase again, especially among college entrance exam takers after the exam on Thursday. In addition, year-end parties may cause infections to become out of control. Further infections should be prevented by wearing a mask and following facility disease control guidelines to avoid going back to the previous social distancing guidelines.
The number of sickbeds for critical COVID-19 patients increased eight times to 1,127 from 138 a year ago. Adding more beds will have limitations as quite a lot have been added already. More beds are being used than the number of actual critical patients at the moment. As the beds have been acquired with difficulty by taking some from general patients, they should be operated with improved efficiency.