It was confirmed Monday among the four members of British family who visited South Korea last Tuesday, three were infected with the mutated strain of the coronavirus from the U.K. This is a different case a four-member family who arrived from the U.K. on Dec. 8 and 13 before being diagnosed with COVID-19 in South Korea. It has yet to be confirmed whether the latter were afflicted with a mutated variant or not.
The family diagnosed with the coronavirus Monday arrived in South Korea on Tuesday, a day before flights from the United Kingdom were banned. Since the official announcement on the emergence of mutated coronavirus on Dec. 15, more than 10 people have entered South Korea from the U.K. Given that an unknown number of people have arrived from the U.K. before the mutated variant was discovered, it is hard to exclude the possibility that the virus has already spread across the country. Despite the geographical distance between the two countries, Seoul’s sluggish response to the mutated virus from the U.K. is rather disappointing, considering that not only the adjacent European nations but some 20 countries including Central and South Americas, North America as well as the Middle Eastern countries banned travelling to the U.K. on Dec. 20.
Coupled with the third wave, the onslaught of the mutated coronavirus from the U.K. could cripple Seoul’s overloaded quarantine capacity and medical system. Experts say once the mutated variant becomes dominant over the existing coronavirus, the number of confirmed cases will surge by 70% as the mutated coronavirus is 70% more contagious. This means the current daily confirmed cases of 1,000 in South Korea could be catapulted to 1,700. The surge of patients will inevitably increase the number of victims who will be mostly elders. Even now, many patients are dying in the wait before getting proper treatments owing to lack of hospital beds and medical capacities.
The South Korean government has extended the ban on flights from the U.K. until January 7 and made it mandatory for those arriving in South Korea from abroad to take a corona test before isolation is lifted. But it is questionable if shutting off the flights from the U.K. alone will be enough to cut off the formidable contagion of COVID-19. And it is impossible to filter out those who traveled from the U.K. to other nations before entering South Korea. The mutated virus has already spread to 23 nations across the globe. Seoul must closely monitor the developments of the mutated coronavirus and implement strict travel bans so as to stall enough time for medical staff to put out the fire of the third wave.