The South Korean government announced on Thursday that social distance measures will be implemented for 16 days from Saturday to January 2. Private gatherings are limited to four or fewer people, and restaurants, cafes, and gyms should close by 9 p.m. Small business owners will receive disease control support in addition to damage for loss. President Moon Jae-in who said on November 29 that there is no going back regarding the suspension of the gradual recovery of normal daily lives – also known as the ‘With Corona’ system – apologized to the public for strengthening disease control measures once again.
South Korea’s COVID-19 situation is falling into the worst crisis to the point that the ‘With Corona’ system had to end in 47 days after a difficult start. As of 12 a.m. Thursday, the number of critical patients recorded 989, which is the highest figure to date. The number of new daily patients was 7,622, exceeding over 7,000 for two consecutive days. If not stopped now, a ‘Christmas nightmare’ can unfold with over 10,000 new patients per day and a sharp increase in deaths. Assuming that the number of new daily patients that can be handled by the medical system is about 4,000, about 3,000 should be reduced per day in two weeks. Unnecessary year-end gatherings should be avoided and indoor airing and wearing a mask should be done to reverse the upward trend.
While the government is encouraging booster shots, only 46 percent of those aged over 60 have received them. Booster shots’ effects are proven with numbers. According to the comparison of new patients by age group on December 1 and Tuesday, those aged over 80, over 60 percent of which have received booster shots, only showed a small increase in the number of patients from 11.2 to 12.7 However, those in their 60s with a relatively low booster shot rate increased sharply from 11.3 to 19.3 patients. Ninety-six percent of deaths are from people aged over 60 who received the second vaccine dose a while ago. Further damage should be avoided by making sure that all seniors have received booster shots by the end of this year. Vaccination for children and teenagers should also be accelerated as those aged between 12 and 15 with a low vaccination rate are producing twice as many patients as adults.
The World Health Organization warned that the Omicron variant could overwhelm the medical system as it is highly infectious. The U.S. is concerned about triple infections in January, with Omicron, Delta, and flu going around at the same time. The South Korean medical system should be reorganized to prepare for a long-term response while buying some time with social distancing beginning on Saturday.