Health authorities on Monday raised the country’s COVID-19 alert level to the highest (Level 5). This is the first time that the country’s COVID-19 alert level has reached the highest after maintaining at ‘medium’ or ‘high’ this year. Even if the number of COVID-19 cases peaks during this month, the number of patients with severe conditions and deaths will continue to rise, putting a strain on the medical system.
The Central Disaster and Safety and Countermeasure Headquarters is evaluating how serious the country’s COVID-19 situation is using 18 indicators every week. Indicators that have deteriorated sharply in recent weeks include the number of patients with severe conditions and deaths, and the utilization rate of critical care beds.
The number of patients with severe conditions was 955 as of 12:00 a.m. on Monday, up 70 from the previous day. They are all severely ill patients, who rely on a respirator to breathe. In addition, there are 688 people, who have been infected with COVID-19 and are in intensive care units but not classified as severely ill patients as they can breathe on their own. In other words, a total of 1,643 COVID-19 patients are currently in intensive care units.
As of 12:00 a.m. on Monday, the daily death toll from the pandemic stood at 139, recording three-digit deaths for five straight days. The utilization rate of critical care beds was 59.8 percent, nearly three times higher than that of Feb. 7.
Health authorities anticipate the Omicron wave will peak sometime in mid-March and the number of confirmed cases will reach up to 350,000 by then. The problem is the number of patients with severe conditions and deaths will not turn into a downward trend after the peak.
The government is highlighting the importance of vaccination. It has not come up with other measures other than repeating the importance of vaccination. As the country suspended the use of vaccine pass from March 1, health authorities have lost a tool to encourage vaccination. The country’s social distancing rules are also being eased.