Experts forecast that a surge in newly infected cases is likely to continue for some time, despite an interruption in the phased return to normal lives and tightened social distancing measures.
Commissioner of Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Jung Eun-kyeong said on Thursday’s briefing that if COVID-19 spread worsens, a daily new case will count above 10,000 in December and up to 20,000 in January 2022. The number of new cases recorded 7,622 and the number of critically ill patients was 989 as of midnight Thursday. The health authorities anticipate that the number of critically ill patients will go up to 1,600 to 1,800 and, in a worst case scenario, would hit the 1,800 to 1,900 threshold should the current trend continue.
According to analysis, the number of new cases would not drop below 5,000 by the end of December, despite the implementation of tightened prevention policies. The National Institute for Mathematical Sciences announced a prediction on Wednesday that the number of new infections would decrease to 5,061 in two weeks, assuming the basic reproduction number for COVID-19 (the number of new infections caused by one infected person) is 0.77, on condition of the Level 4 social distancing rule maintains. Even in such case, the number of critically ill patients would amount to 1,147, adding on to the already heavy workload of medical staff. The reproduction number has risen to 1.23 between Dec. 5 and Dec. 11.
Experts suggest that more tightened measures to the point of a complete lockdown is necessary to avoid a prolongation of social distancing. According to Prof. Eom Joong-sik of the infectious diseases department at Gacheon University Gil Hospital, the number of newly infected cases should drop below 2,000 to help health care workers to cope with the situation. “Prevention measures tend to become less effective after four weeks, and this is the reason why the government should temporarily enforce the 18:00 curfew measure,” said Prof. Eom.