Daily infections should slide to under 40,000 in May
Health authorities predicted Tuesday that new Covid-19 infections will drop below 40,000 a day in May.
“Five out of six research institutions that participated in the analysis forecast the current decline of the wave to continue for a while, and the daily tally to decrease to less than 40,000 by May 18,” the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said through a press release on Tuesday.
Korea reported 80,361 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, remaining below 100,000 for six days in a row, according to the KDCA.
The total caseload stood at 17,009,865, meaning one in three Koreans are or have been infected with the coronavirus. The percentage is probably considerably higher when also including people who contracted the disease but never got formally tested.
The research teams also predicted that the number of critically ill Covid-19 patients will fall below 500 after two weeks.
Fatalities and critical Covid-19 cases have been falling along with the downturn in infections.
The number of critical cases totaled 613 as of Monday midnight, down by 55 from the previous day.
Eighty-two more people died from the virus on Monday, the first time in 55 days virus-related fatalities went below 100.
Yet health authorities also cited a possibility of Covid-19 cases rebounding “due to weakened immunity and emergence of new variants over time.”
“Although patients are decreasing more than 30 percent each week, the decline may reach a stagnant phase after slowing down over the next one to two months,” said Lee Sang-won, head of the epidemiological investigations team at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Amid the slowdown of the pandemic, the country’s overall Covid-19 risk was evaluated as medium over the past week, a drop by a notch from the previous week. Medium is the third-highest level in the five-tier evaluation system.
It was the first time in 14 weeks the assessment for the country reached the intermediate level. Korea’s weekly new infections have been decreasing since the third week of March, the KDCA explained.
According to the government, a person is considered reinfected if he or she tests positive 90 days after their initial Covid-19 infection, or tests positive between 45 to 89 days after their initial infection and has symptoms or has come into contact with another patient.
The KDCA surveyed a total of 16,139,920 Covid-patients from January 2020 through April 16 and found that 55,906 people, or 0.347 percent of analyzed cases, were believed to have been reinfected with the virus.
Seventy-two people ended up in critical condition, and 52 people died from Covid-19 reinfection.
The reinfection rate until last December and before the Omicron wave was 0.1 percent, and that rose to 0.36 percent from January.
“Korea’s Covid-19 reinfection rate was seen to be lower compared to overseas,” Lee said, while adding, “but reinfections increase along with the rise in the number of confirmed cases since the Omicron wave.”
While authorities are deciding whether to lift the outdoor mask mandate this week, the Korean Medical Association declared that the idea is premature.
In a public advisory released Tuesday, the association’s Expert Covid-19 Response Committee said, “The government's plan to ease social distancing does not mean the Covid-19 pandemic has ended,” stressing that tens of thousands of patients are still testing positive for the virus, and the coronavirus is dangerous for high-risk groups such as the elderly.
“A review is needed over the complete lifting of the mandatory mask-wearing rule, which is the most basic personal protective equipment,” it added.
The committee advised wearing a face mask especially when attending mass events such as rallies, concerts and festivals, meeting with strangers outdoors, and visiting a medical institution.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) lifted its mask mandate within its installations and other facilities on Tuesday.
“Based on Korean Covid-19 numbers meeting the Department of Defense “medium” level, mask wear is no longer required within USFK installations, HQs, and unit facilities,” the USFK posted on its website on Tuesday.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]