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Medical system collapse is looming

Posted February. 18, 2022 07:50,   

Updated February. 18, 2022 07:50


As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading across South Korea, metrics related to the pandemic, such as the number of patients with serious symptoms, are getting worse. If infections are prolonged, a medical system collapse that happened with the Delta variant at the end of last year may be repeated.

According to the disease control authorities, the number of new daily patients broke a new record with 93,135 patients as of 12 a.m. on Thursday. It is the second day in a row to see the figure over 90,000. The figure rose by 1.7 times from February 10 and 4.1 times from February 3. In particular, the number of patients with severe symptoms rose by 76 to 389 in just one day. The figure had been relatively stable around 200 patients for a while but it took only three days to go from around 300 on Monday to close to 400. In addition, the number of deaths from COVID-19 per week almost doubled to 275 as of Thursday from 151 in the week before that.

Even though the Omicron variant has a lower fatality rate than the Delta variant, the numbers of critical patients and deaths are on the rise as the total number of infected people increases rapidly. While the occupation rate of sickbeds for people with serious symptoms is around 20 percent across the nation, but it is not without concerns. “The graph of infections with the Omicron variant may look like the Pamir Plateau that remains at the top for a long time, rather than like Mt Everest that peaks and drops,” said Dr. Uhm Joong-shik at Gachon University Gil Medical Center. “If this is the case, it will put a huge burden on the medical system.”

The South Korean government has a lot to consider before announcing changes in social distancing guidelines on Friday. The government has been reviewing a plan to ease the current guidelines of six or fewer people for private gatherings before 9 p.m. to eight or fewer people for private gatherings before 10 p.m. However, as the number of infections soars, the government is reeval‎uating the plan.

The daily lives restoration support committee, a government’s advisory body, has divergent opinions. Most of its disease control subcommittee’s members said social distancing guidelines can be eased at least two weeks after the Omicron variant hits the peak. Meanwhile, the members of the people’s livelihood and economy subcommittee are proposing the significant easing of the guidelines, saying that they carry fewer meanings now.

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