Third wave brings Korea’s COVID-19 positivity rate over 3pct

30-Nov-2020 Intellasia | Koreaherald | 6:50 AM Print This Post

South Korea’s count of new COVID-19 infections fell to 450 on Sunday after recording three consecutive 500-plus days as testing declined over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the nationwide test positivity rate rose to over 3 percent on the same day, the highest since the summer resurgence. The positivity rate, the percentage of people who test positive out of all those who are tested, has remained in the 2 percent range for the last few days.

As a third wave of infections is in full swing, Korea will decide Sunday whether to move to a more restrictive tier in its 5-tiered social distancing system, according to the prime minister’s Office. prime minister Chung Sye-kyun, who presides over the government’s COVID-19 response headquarters, will announce the decision in an emergency briefing later this afternoon.

The adjustments, if made, would come just a week since the government tightened its social distancing rules amid flare-ups, about a month and a half since it eased them in mid-October. Korea currently imposes midlevel restrictions, prohibiting indoor dining past 9 p.m. and limiting the operations of nightlife businesses.

Under the next-strictest tier, restrictions would be imposed on additional businesses including movie theaters, game arcades and theme parks. Gyms and other indoor sport facilities would be closed. No more than 50 people would be allowed at weddings and funerals.

Based on the guidelines updated earlier this month, Korea already qualifies for the second-most-restrictive tier. The seven-day average of new community transmission-linked cases per day recorded over 400 in the past week.

But the likelihood of tighter restrictions remains uncertain as Korea has a history of rolling back restrictions in favour of economic stability despite not meeting the necessary benchmarks. government officials have said the upcoming Suneungthe yearly college entrance exam that tens of thousands of high school seniors are expected to takeslated for next Thursday is the target period for maintaining the current tier.

Experts warn that the winter wave is projected to be “unlike anything” the country has experienced so far in the pandemic.

“The initial wave in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province was tied to a single community so we knew whom we had to test and isolate, and it took us a month to contain the epidemic. The second wave in summer took around two months to subside, as a higher proportionnearly 70 percentof cases being discovered were from community transmission,” said infectious disease specialist Dr Lee Jacob during Saturday’s roundtable talk organised by the National Academy of Medicine of Korea.

“The latest wave of infections is anticipated to take even longer to die down because we’re not able to specify where the cases are coming from. This trend show how prevalent COVID-19 is in communities,” he said.

As hospitalisations surge, beds are becoming scarce once again.

There were 5,759 patients with COVID-19 currently being treated in isolation either at hospitals or other health care centers as of Saturday. This is over a threefold surge from a month ago in end-October, when the number of isolated patients was around 1,600.

Saturday’s data showed that out of the 4,362 COVID-19 beds in the country, more than half or 2,411 were occupied. The total number of available intensive care unit beds that can accommodate COVID-19 patients was just 69. Public doctors at the National Medical centre forecast at the November 24 press conference that the remaining ICU beds would run out in the coming week.

“During the earlier spike in August and September, hospitals were overloaded when the number of isolated patients began nearing 5,000,” said infectious disease specialist Dr Kim Woo-joo of the Korea University Medical centre in Guro, southern Seoul, warning that the health care systems were on the verge of breaking.

“The only way to rein in the spread and avert an imminent health care collapse is to keep the curbs in place. How the government can protect the suffering small businesses and vulnerable workers while the social distancing lasts will be key in surviving the long COVID-19 winter.”


Category: Korea

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