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COVID-19 spreads through communities

Posted June. 15, 2020 07:45,   

Updated June. 15, 2020 07:45


COVID-19 cases linked to “Richway,” a door-to-door sales company located in Seoul’s Gwanak District, increased to 164 as of Sunday noon, 12 days after the first case was confirmed. Forty out of the 164 patients are those who visited Richway, and the remaining 124 are those who came in close contact with them. The problem is that there is a higher risk that the virus could be passed onto many people. At first, most new coronavirus patients were elderly because Richway is a door-to-door sales company. However, now, new cases are being found at facilities that are frequently visited by young people such as language schools, gyms and bars as a result of failing to break the chain of the virus.

Tracing the virus is easier when there is one specific local outbreak such as the one linked to a club in Itaewon. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case with the recent cases. The virus is spreading across facilities in communities, affecting both the young and the old, which makes prevention more difficult pushing up the reproduction number. If this becomes a reality, just one or two new clusters can overwhelm the healthcare system in the Seoul metropolitan area.

The accumulated number of confirmed cases in both Seoul and Gyeonggi has each surpassed 1,000, while 420 patients are being treated in hospitals in Seoul with more patients being admitted than being discharged. This is the highest since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Average daily cases have also increased to 44.1 over the past two weeks. Social distancing should resume if the number reaches 50.

Experts voice concerns more about the trend than the numbers themselves, warning of a potential second wave. “Fifty is not an absolute figure calculated based on science,” said Choi Won-seok, an epidemiology professor of Korea University Ansan Hospital. “Waiting until the number reaches 50 risks explosive outbreaks as measures would not be as effective by then.”

Joo-Young Jeon aimhigh@donga.com