Most Covid-19 deaths, severe cases were of patients 60 and over
Patients aged 60 and over accounted for a majority of Korea's deaths from and severe cases of Covid-19 last week, according to the latest government data.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), the country reported 1,760 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, raising the total caseload to 381,694. The number of cases came slightly down after topping 2,000 for five consecutive days, partly due to fewer virus testing over the weekend. Still, this is an increase of 171, or 10.7 percentage points, compared to last Monday’s figure.
The number of infections has been on the rise after the country’s gradual return to normalcy, known as “With Corona,” which started Nov. 1.
From Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, the daily average of confirmed patients was around 2,133, a rise from 1,716 the week before. Of these, patients aged 60 and older averaged 631, which also increased from the previous week’s daily average of 421.
In line with the increasing Covid-19 infections, severe cases, or the number of patients in intensive care units, and fatalities have also been on the rise, particularly among elderly patients.
Patients aged 60 and over accounted for 79.2 percent of last week’s severe cases, the KDCA said.
People aged 60 and older took up 96.8 percent of the people who died from the coronavirus last week. Out of these, people in their 80s recorded the most with 80, followed by 26 in their 70s and 16 in their 60s. There were no deaths reported among people under 40.
Health authorities explained that people over 80 have relatively lower vaccination rates and less immunity compared to other age groups, which puts them at greater risk.
“The risk of fatality increases more among the unvaccinated and with an increase in age,” said Park Hyang, head of the quarantine team of the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, during a briefing on Monday. “We once again especially advise that those in their senior years get vaccinated if they haven’t yet.”
Park pointed to the increase in indoor activities coupled with less ventilation due to the colder weather, as well as the lift on restrictions and, thus, more meetings as increasing the risk of another virus resurgence.
Officials also projected the aftermath of the relaxation of virus restrictions and the Halloween parties at the end of October is yet to come, and will likely start to be reflected in the numbers this week.
“We believe this week’s [cases] may be affected by the Halloween gatherings and the easing of social distancing rules,” Park said. "Last weekend’s number of infections also reached a 5-week high, and we are keeping a close eye on the number of cases this week."
Korea is expecting to receive oral Covid-19 pills in stages starting February next year, the government announced Monday.
“The government has finalized its decision to procure oral treatments for 404,000 people,” said the spokesperson of the KDCA, Ko Jae-young, adding that it is pushing for a pre-purchase contract.
This is the first time the government detailed the timing of the arrival of Covid-19 pills.
In order to minimize the number of critically ill patients amid the “With Corona” policy, the government signed a deal with MSD (known as Merck in the United States) to buy enough pills for 200,000 patients in September, and another with Pfizer to buy enough for 70,000 people in October.
The government is also in talks to ink a deal to procure pills for some 134,000 people, with MSD, Pfizer, Roche and other drug firms.
The government earlier said it will cover all expenses for Covid-19 oral pills if such a treatment is introduced.
Ko added antiviral medications used to treat severe Covid-19 patients in Korea, such as remdesivir by the United States' Gilead Sciences or Korean-made regdanvimab by Celltrion Healthcare, will still be used even after the oral pills are introduced.
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