The Omicron Subvariant BA.5, more immune-evasive than the Omicron Variant of COVID-19 by three times, has dominated South Korea, raising the daily number of new cases up to more than 20,000 for two days running. In response, South Korean quarantine authorities consider expanding the range of citizens subject to the 4th vaccination program to those in their 50s.
More than 40 percent of COVID-19 patients newly reported in South Korea last week (July 3 to 9) were confirmed to be infected with BA.5 according to authorities on Sunday. As recently as the week earlier from June 26 to July 2, only 24.1 percent of new patients were affected by BA.5, lower than other Omicron subvariants such as BA.2.3 (39.5 percent) and BA.2 (24.2 percent). However, it took only a week for BA.5 to spiral infections to become the dominant type in the country. “Given global trends, we expect BA.5 to be detected in more than 50 percent of new cases in South Korea this week,” said quarantine authorities.
With BA.5 ramping up quickly, new COVID-19 cases are growing in numbers across the country. The daily number of new cases was 20,410 as of midnight on Sunday, exceeding the threshold of 20,000 for two consecutive days following 20,286 on the previous day. The country recorded more than 20,000 new patients a day 45 days ago on May 25 (23,945). The recent week from July 4 to 10 saw 73 deaths due to COVID-19, up by 1.5 times compared to the week earlier.
Quarantine authorities plan to open a special committee on preventive vaccination on Monday to decide whether to expand the 4th vaccination program. It will highly likely consider decreasing the minimum age from 60 to 50 for the 4th shot. Also, it is expected that the range of citizens who are highly advised to get the 4th jab will be widened from the current bracket of those aged 80 and above.
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