The detection of “Omicron,” a new COVID-19 variant that is even more transmissible than the highly infectious Delta variant, is expanding curbs at countries that have previously eased COVID-19 regulations. In just 16 days after the first Omicron infection was detected in Botswana on November 11, the variant has spread across Europe in the U.K., Germany, Italy, and some countries in Asia. The U.S. is also acknowledging the variant’s infection on its territories. The World Health Organization designated Omicron as the fifth variant of concern after the Delta variant. The new variant poses a new challenge for Korea, which currently has 647 critical patients and 56 deaths related to COVID-19 as of Sunday..
Effective as of Sunday, the Korean government is prohibiting entry of foreign nationals coming from eight African countries including Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Korean citizens are required to self-isolate for days after entry regardless of vaccination status. It can be said that transcontinental transmission has begun, given Omicron’s transmission rates that are five times more powerful than Delta and confirmed cases of travelers returning to their countries after visiting infected countries in Africa. We should keep a close eye on the transmission situation and prepare enhanced measures such as expanding the number of countries to limit entry from.
Plans to enforce more stringent COVID-19 measures will be determined at the Special COVID-19 Review Meeting presided by President Moon Jae-in, which is being held today. The bed occupancy rate for critical patients has exceeded 75%, a threshold to determine suspension of Korea’s ‘With Corona scheme,”, at 75.04% as of 5 p.m. on Saturday. There are 1,265 patients waiting to be admitted, which continues to grow. We cannot afford to delay the decision any longer, given the addition of Omicron factor. We need to strengthen COVID-19 measures, by expanding the use of the vaccine pass, to bring a stop to the vicious cycle of “surge in patients- increase of critical patients- more deaths.”