Go to contents

Gov’t says COVID-19 will become endemic with Omicron

Posted February. 23, 2022 07:42,   

Updated February. 23, 2022 07:42


South Korean health authorities said the spread of the Omicron variant will mark the beginning of a COVID-19 endemic.

“We are in the early stage of the transition to an endemic management system while continuing to monitor the risk level of the omicron variant. We still have a long way to go, but we’re on our way out of the woods,” Park Hyang, the head of the quarantine division at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, said at a regular briefing on Tuesday. “If COVID-19 fatality rate remains low, we will be able to manage the Omicron variant as it does with other infectious diseases.”

According to the health authorities, the Omicron variant spreads faster than the Delta variant, but the ratio of fatal and severe Omicron cases stand at 0.18 percent and 0.38 percent, respectively. The Omicron variant has become two times less deadly than seasonal flu. In particular, the fatality rate is close to 0 percent for those under the age of 50, who have been fully vaccinated. “Omicron’s fatality rate for those who had their third dose of COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be lower than that of seasonal flu,” Koh Jae-young, a spokesperson of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), said during a background briefing.

The current social distancing measures, which allow private gatherings of up to six people and require restaurants and cafes to close at 10 p.m., might be eased further after the Omicron outbreak passes its peak. “The country should begin planning returning to normalcy after considering whether omicron cases are declining after a peak, the number of severe and critical patients, and capacity in the health system,” said Sohn Young-rae, the head of social strategy at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters. “Easing or adjustment of vaccine pass will certainly be considered in the process.”

Keun-Hyung Yoo noel@donga.com