Korea is entering the seventh wave of COVID-19 with infections resurging in earnest while vaccination rates for the winter are stalling.
Second Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Park Min-soo said on Friday during the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters meeting that COVID-19 confirmed cases are on the rise as indoor activities increase to avoid cold weather and the immunity against the virus gained through infections and vaccinations is weakening. Park added that the new wave of the pandemic has begun in earnest.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, the number of confirmed cases for the day increased by about 10,000 to 54,519 from 43,449 a week ago. Newly confirmed cases on Fridays have continued for five consecutive weeks since October 14, when the number was 23,572. The average daily confirmed cases for the week starting November 5 and 11 stands at 47,268, a 12.6% increase from 41,963 for the previous week. The number of infected patients in critical condition is 345 as of Friday, 22 more patients than the previous day.
However, the vaccination rates for the coming winter are stalling. The percentage of people aged 18 or older who received the fourth vaccine this winter is 3.2% as of Friday midnight. Even the percentage for those aged 60 or higher remains at 9.6%.
The additional vaccination for the winter season began on October 11. Those aged 60 or higher could get the shot either on the day they make the reservation or through the reservation in advance. Those between 18 and 59 could get the jab only on the same day if vaccine stocks remained until November 7, when they could start making a vaccination appointment in advance.
The Korean government has vowed to develop measures to boost additional vaccinations. Park Hyang, the head of the Prevention Coordination Unit for the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, said that the government would aggressively run health center teams to visit and vaccinate people in facilities particularly vulnerable to infections and that it would encourage clinics and medical centers to provide shots on the spot for those without prior reservations if they have vaccine stocks left. But experts note that the measures would not likely help raise the vaccination rates as they are already being adopted on-site.
Meanwhile, Korea's pandemic prevention authorities announced that the 13th central community treatment center, the last remaining facility for COVID-19 patients to get recovered, will be shut down on November 30.