Incoming gov't wants Covid curfews done away with
President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's transition team on Wednesday called for an end to the 11 p.m. Covid-19 curfew, one of the main pandemic restrictions.
“If the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters concludes that Covid-19 infections are on the decline, it is time to ease social distancing,” Shin Yong-hyeon, a spokesman for the transition team of the incoming administration of Yoon Suk-yeol, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“I heard a proposition was made [to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters] saying the restriction on business hours, which is considered to be ineffective, could be abolished,” said Shin.
Korea forces most businesses — including restaurants, cafes, bars and gyms — to close by 11 p.m. as part of its social distancing measures. That is a relaxing of 10 p.m. and 9 p.m. curfews that were in effect previously.
“Small business owners and self-employed people were forced to suffer,” said Won Il-hee, chief deputy spokesman of the transition team. “Decisions should be made based on scientific data, not political judgments.”
The current distancing rules, including the 11 p.m. business curfew as well as private gatherings capped at eight people, are already set to be adjusted this Friday, and the government is canvassing opinions from various sectors.
Despite a gradual — if erratic — downtrend in daily Covid-19 infections, Korea's severe cases and fatalities are trending in the opposite direction, especially among the elderly. Some experts are advising the medical system be reorganized to deal with a rising number of critical Covid-19 patients and deaths.
Korea reported 424,641 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, raising the total caseload to 12,774,956, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
This was an increase by 77,087 from the previous day. Cases tend to rise in the middle of the week with more tests conducted.
Compared to the previous week, however, cases dropped by 66,180.
The government said Covid-19 cases have passed the peak of the fierce Omicron wave and are falling, yet warned it is too early to declare any kind of victory.
“We have to prepare in advance for the increase in critically ill patients and the strain on our medical capacity induced from it [which will arrive] two to three weeks after the peak of the wave,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in a Covid-19 response meeting on Wednesday.
“In particular, amid a time when elderly patients aged 60 or older account for 85 percent of critically ill patients and 95 percent of deaths, the number of the infected elderly is rising [even more],” Kim noted.
The number of Covid-19 patients hospitalized in critical condition totaled 1,301 as of Tuesday midnight, an all-time high.
The country added 432 more deaths from Covid-19 on Wednesday, the second-highest death toll for a single day since the pandemic began. Adults aged 60 or over, who are considered at the highest risk of deteriorating into severe illness and death, accounted for 94.2 percent.
Consider that a peak in severe cases and fatalities usually comes two to three weeks after a peak in infections, the country is facing the aftermath of its record number of 621,197 infections registered on March 17. Medical experts at home and abroad predicted that the number of critical cases could soar to 1,300 to 1,680 before they start to decline in April.
Four out of 10 recent Covid-19 fatalities were reported from nursing hospitals. According to health authorities, 973, or 38.7 percent of the 2,516 people who died of the coronavirus from March 20 to 26, passed away in nursing hospitals. Nursing hospitals are mostly used by people aged 80 or older with underlying diseases.
In addition, due to the recent surge in Covid cases and bed shortages, many patients are unable to get transferred to nursing hospitals specializing in infectious diseases.
“Many people who would have died in an infectious diseases nursing hospital or intensive care unit in the past are now dying in nursing homes or nursing hospitals,” Lee Jae-gap, a professor in the Infectious Disease Department at Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Heart Hospital, said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
In response, the government on Wednesday came up with strengthened Covid-19 measures at nursing hospitals.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]