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Omicron accounts for 80% of new cases

Posted February. 03, 2022 07:47,   

Updated February. 03, 2022 07:47


South Korea’s new daily COVID-19 cases have exceeded 20,000 for the first time. Given that the number of tests conducted during the Lunar New Year’s Day holidays (from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2) was only half of the ordinary number of tests done during normal times, the actual number of infected cases is presumed to be much larger. Considering that the number of confirmed cases has doubled since the Omicron variant became the dominant strain of COVID-19, the number of daily new cases is likely to exceed far beyond 40,000 next week.

According to the figures released by the Central Disease Control Headquarters, the number of new daily cases was reported to be 20,270 as of midnight on Wednesday, which is an increase of two times in just a week since Jan. 26 when the number of daily cases first exceeded 10,000.

Unfortunately, the prospect of a further surge in confirmed cases is inevitable. The number of COVID-19 tests conducted on Tuesday, which was during the holiday period, was 356,384, only a half of the number of tests conducted on Jan. 25, a week earlier (656,404 tests). Yet the number of confirmed cases during this period increased more than twofold from 8,570 to 18,343. In the next week, when COVID-19 tests will be conducted as usual, the number of confirmed cases is expected to skyrocket.

A surge in daily cases will be driven by the spread of the Omicron variant. The Omicron variant identified during last week (Jan. 23 to Jan. 29) spiked to 80% from the previous week’s 50.3%. Furthermore, six people who have not traveled abroad were found to have contracted the Omicron sub-variant BA. 2, which is referred to as a “stealth” variant and known to be more transmissible than the original Omicron variant.

Of note, 9.3% of test cases were tested positive for COVID-19, which was the highest since the outbreak of the pandemic. The higher the number of confirmed cases compared to the number of tests, the more infected individuals there are being undetected in the local community. The National Institute for Mathematical Sciences predicted to reach 75,000 by the mid-February. The government announced that people who are under age 60 and healthy will be excluded from taking PCR tests starting Thursday, in preparation for a surge in confirmed cases due to the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, the government will hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss new social distancing guidelines that will come into force starting Feb. 7. The Infection Prevention and Control Bureau is reportedly in support of carrying on with the current guideline that restricts social gatherings to six people and business operations until 9 p.m. until case numbers stop rising. However, some argue that restrictions on social gatherings should be eased given that the fatality rate of the Omicron variant remains low.