'With Corona' may not advance to the next level at this rate
The current virus restrictions may be in place longer than scheduled after the country’s critical Covid-19 cases hit a new high for two straight days on Thursday, Korea’s top infectious disease expert warned.
In a plenary session at the National Assembly on Thursday, Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), said the first phase of the three-stage "With Corona" plan could be prolonged if the situation worsens.
In transitioning into a new strategy and opening up the country, authorities said each stage of the “With Corona” system will go through a four-week implementation period. After then, it will be given a two-week evaluation period which the authorities will make an assessment using the number of Covid-19 patients in critical condition and Covid-19 deaths — and decide whether to allow the country to move to the next phase.
The first phase has been implemented uniformly across the country since Nov. 1, which alleviates major virus curbs, and allows most business to operate around-the-clock and people to gather in groups of up to 10 people.
The second phase is set to begin by early or mid-December, which would lift restrictions further, such as those requiring clubs and bars that allow dancing to close at midnight.
When asked by Democratic Party (DP) Rep. Shin Hyun-young whether it would be difficult to transition into the second “With Corona” phase given the current transmission pace, Jeong replied the country could “maintain the first stage or strengthen preventive measures if the current situation persists.”
“We are keeping a close watch, as the number of critical cases has been increasing lately,” Jeong said, adding, “It’s been only 10 days [since the implementation of the 'With Corona' strategy], so we’ll continue to monitor the situation and review whether to transition into the next stage or apply new measures.”
Korea’s number of Covid-19 patients in critical condition has been on the rise and hit a new record for the second day in a row on Thursday.
The KDCA said there were 473 patients in critical condition as of the end of Wednesday. This replaced the record of 460 total patients the previous day.
Critical cases refer to Covid-19 patients who require oxygen treatment (such as high-flow oxygen therapy), mechanical ventilation or being put on a respirator, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) or continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT).
The government believes it could stably manage up to 500 severe cases under the current medical system. The upward trend in these critical cases, however, is showing no signs of decline as it approaches the critical point, after passing 400 last Saturday.
The country added 2,520 new Covid-19 cases, a rise by 95 from the previous day. The country's accumulative caseload now comes to 388,351.
The KDCA chief added the government is considering advancing the booster shot schedule for people in their 50s or over, and those with underlying diseases. Currently, they can get their boosters after six months have passed since their final jab.
“Employees at nursing homes are getting their booster shot after five-months, and there is a consensus among experts on shortening the booster interval for [other eligible people],” Jeong said. “The Vaccination Expert Committee will review such measures next week.”
To facilitate bookings for booster shots, starting Friday, the country will allow people to make reservations for Covid-19 boosters through the online NoShow Vaccine system on Naver and Kakao, which offers last-minute reservations online for vaccines that are leftover from cancellations. Those not included in the groups eligible for booster shots or who haven’t passed the designated period since their final dose will be unable to place reservations.
Korea reported its first death after a booster inoculation on Thursday.
The KDCA said a woman in her 80s died after receiving a booster jab with the Pfizer vaccine, and added it will investigate the causality between the vaccine and the death.
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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