Covid count doubles again on Sunday
Health authorities on Monday morning announced that a total of 26,299 people nationwide tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday, a two-fold increase from a week earlier's 12,681 people. Compared to two weeks earlier, when 6,248 people tested positive, Sunday’s figure was a four-fold increase.
It was the highest figure for a Sunday in 12 weeks, and the first time in 10 weeks that more than 20,000 people tested positive on a Sunday.
Sunday’s figure was still markedly smaller than Saturday's 40,342 who tested positive, mainly due to less testing on Sundays and Saturdays. Fewer test sites are open on weekends in general, which means that people who come down with Covid-19 symptoms on weekends are likely to get tested Monday through Wednesday.
Over the past week, Korea has seen an average of 37,660 new Covid-19 patients each day. Health officials have blamed the recent spread of Omicron variants for driving up cases, warning that the nation was entering its sixth wave of the pandemic.
Among Sunday’s 26,299 new cases, Seoul topped the list with the most cases with 4,896, followed by Incheon's 1,944, Busan's 1,250, South Gyeongsang's 1,164, North Gyeongsang's 1,068 and Daegu's 1,022.
There were 81 people in critical or serious condition. Eleven people died.
Starting Monday, the government lowered eligibility requirements for fourth doses of coronavirus vaccines, essentially allowing people in their 50’s to get second booster shots. Others who have been permitted to get their fourth dose include people 18 or older with underlying illnesses and employees and residents in facilities for the handicapped and in homeless shelters.
Previously, fourth doses were offered to people over 59 and residents or workers at hospitals or facilities for the elderly.
Although the vaccines currently in use cannot entirely prevent infection with the fast-spreading Omicron variants, local health officials said studies have shown they can prevent infected patients from deteriorating into severe illness.
In a report, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said that the effectiveness of a fourth dose turned out to be 20.3 percent against infection, far lower than the third dose, which ranged between 64 and 81 percent earlier this year.
Health officials acknowledged that vaccine effectiveness was overall waning with the advent of new coronavirus variants, but stressed that fourth doses were still over 50 percent effective against deaths and serious illness.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]