Deaths hit record but Covid cases fall by nearly 100,000
Given that patients who die from Covid-19 are usually sick for two to three weeks, health experts warned that the death toll will continue to climb with the recent spike in cases. Some 200,000 infections were logged each day in early March, which grew to 300,000 to 500,000 this week.
In a briefing, Sohn Young-rae, a senior official with the government’s Central Disaster Management Headquarters, said many patients had underlying illnesses. “No one died because they couldn’t find a hospital bed,” Sohn stressed, "unlike in December."
The peak in deaths came as new infections dropped a lot from the previous day, though health authorities were cautious about calling it a definite trend.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced Thursday morning that a total of 395,598 people tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, down 95,283 from Tuesday, when the nation recorded its second-highest number of cases since the onset of the pandemic two years ago. The all-time peak was observed nearly a week ago, when 621,205 people tested positive on March 16.
Most of the 395,598 people confirmed Wednesday were in the Seoul metropolitan area comprising Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi, KDCA data showed. Among the country’s 17 major cities and provinces, only Ulsan, Sejong and Jeju Island logged four-digit infections, while the rest logged five digits.
Only 67 cases were imported.
As of Wednesday, there were 1,081 patients in critical condition, the 17th consecutive day that the figure was in the four digits.
Sohn from the Central Disaster Management Headquarters said in Thursday’s briefing that fewer people were coming down with the coronavirus this week than last, but added that only time will tell whether the Omicron wave is receding.
“We will be able to determine whether daily cases are shrinking after monitoring the situation during the remainder of this week,” said Sohn.
Even though cases do fall, local health experts say some 300,000 people will still be diagnosed with the coronavirus each day for some time, while deaths climb.
Wednesday’s death toll of 470 is 179 higher than the day before and 41 higher than the previous record on March 16.
Among the Covid-19 patients who died Wednesday, 316 people (67.2 percent) were 80 years of age or older; 94 people (20 percent) were in their 70s; 18 people (3.8 percent) were in their 50s; five people (1.1 percent) were in their 40s; three people (0.6 percent) were in their 30s; and three others were in their 20s.
Over the past seven days, a total of 2,421 people died, which is about 350 deaths per day on average.
Health experts say the actual number of deaths is likely higher when factoring in people who suffered from lingering symptoms after recovering from Covid-19, as well as those who fell through the cracks and went unnoticed by the government.
In a weekly report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, Korea was shown to have registered the highest number of new coronavirus cases for the third straight week. Over the past week, Korea’s daily toll of infections was followed by Vietnam, Germany, France and Australia in that order. The most number of deaths were reported in Russia, the United States, Brazil, Korea and China.
By Wednesday, a total of 10,822,836 people in Korea tested positive for the coronavirus, meaning more than one in every five people have been infected.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Wednesday that the next week or two will likely be a “turning point” in the pandemic, though health officials have largely refrained from presenting a rosy outlook.
Despite the rapid spread of the virus, many schools in Korea have remained open, with restaurants and coffee shops allowed to operate up to 11 p.m.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, HWANG SOO-YEON [email@example.com]