Health and Welfare Vice Minister Lee Ki-il said Friday that warning signs for a Covid-19 resurgence are emerging one after another. It means Covid-19 has entered a phase of spread once again. Lee thus made it effectively official that a Covid-19 resurgence has started. The number of confirmed cases has doubled from last week to hit 19,323 at midnight on Friday,
The Omicron subvariant BA.5, which will likely soon become the prevailing strain in Korea, is highly transmissible and has a breakthrough infection rate 60 times that of the original strain. The existing vaccines offer far weaker protection against this subvariant, while vaccines against variants have yet to be developed. Immunity from natural infection is maintained for only about three to four months, and those who were infected with Covid-19 during the fifth wave from February to April can be easily reinfected with the new subvariant.
When summer holiday season reaches its peak, more people will be on the move and take shelter at airconditioned indoor facilities, creating an environment of being ‘close, closed, and dense.’ With most quarantine measures except outdoor mask mandate having been lifted, people are now less wary of the coronavirus. While there are lack of measures to prevent Covid-19, there are a flurry of elements that can spark spread. Some experts say daily Covid-19 cases could reach up to 200,000 in mid-August. The health authorities have many things to check in advance, such as sufficient hospital beds for severe Covid-19 patients in the event of massive transmission.
Experts have warned since May that Covid-19 could spread widely again during the summer season , and the spread of the disease actually started to rebound from late June. However, the first official meeting of the ‘advisory committee on infectious diseases response’ will take place only on next Monday, and the government will announce countermeasures on Wednesday. As the vacancy of the health minister gets protracted, there is growing concern over leadership vacuum in quarantine and disease control. Only when the government takes the lead in elevating its own alert level, will then Korea be able to successfully overcome the sixth Covid-19 wave.