Covid case count spikes 68% to 2,667
Wednesday’s Covid-19 case count shot up by over 1,000, just two days after the nation announced a return to normalcy.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Wednesday, the daily caseload on Tuesday was 2,667, with 2,640 local infections and 27 overseas infections.
This was 1,078 more cases than the 1,589 cases reported on Tuesday, a 67.8 percent spike.
The caseload announced Wednesday was the fourth largest number of daily infections so far, and the largest overnight spike since the start of the pandemic 22 months ago.
A total of 2,073 cases or 78.5 percent of the new cases occurred in the greater Seoul area, with Seoul recording 997 cases, Gyeonggi 895 cases and Incheon 181 cases, according to the KDCA.
The number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) escalated as well.
As of Tuesday night, the number of Covid-19 patients admitted to ICUs was 378, which was 31 more than the previous day.
Enough ICU beds remain available. Some 46.1 percent of the beds in intensive care units are still vacant, according to the KDCA.
The number of deaths increased by 18, bringing the total death toll to 2,892 with a 0.78 percent fatality rate.
Health authorities pointed to the nation's phased return to normalcy as the catalyst for the recent spike.
“Accumulation of daily infections is inevitable as we inch toward normality," said Son Young-rae, senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters.
While he said he expects the number of daily cases to continue to grow, Son said that the government will continue to pursue its “With Corona” policy akin to “Living with Covid” measures elsewhere, saying, “We will mostly focus on the number of critically ill patients and hospital capacity management.”
However, health authorities admitted they are concerned about the scale and speed of the increase in new cases among seniors and unvaccinated minors.
“Of Wednesday’s tally, adolescents ages 10 to 19 accounted for 24 percent, and the number of virus-positive seniors over the age of 60 has consistently grown in the course of last four weeks,” said Jeon Hae-cheol, minister of the interior and safety.
“The ubiquity of cluster infections around schools, hagwon (cram schools) and nursing homes is indeed troubling,” he said.
Experts said that although the nation has adopted the “With Corona” policy, the surges in daily cases should not be overlooked.
Kim Wu-ju, a doctor at the infectious diseases department of Korea University Guro Hospital, said that he is worried about the declining effects of Covid-19 vaccines as daily infection counts rise.
“The KDCA says that 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, but that does not mean that all of them have produced enough antibodies to be safe from the virus,” said Kim.
“Of those who received vaccinations before May, most of them have probably lost antibodies and are more prone to breakthrough infections.”
Kim said that at this rate, Korea may see close to 5,000 new cases per day in two to three weeks’ time.
“Wednesday’s tally does not even fully reflect those who may have caught the virus during Halloween weekend or after Nov. 1 when the phased return to normalcy began,” he said.
“In order to ensure immunity against the virus, the government should expand the booster shot rollout at a faster rate,” said Kim.
Meanwhile, the government has formed a “special inspection team” with eight ministries and agencies including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of the Interior and Safety and the National Police Agency, to monitor violations of the “With Corona” policy at high-risk facilities such as cafes, indoor gyms and nursing homes.
The team will begin operations Thursday morning.
BY LEE WOO-LIM, LEE JIAN [email@example.com]