Korea is officially in its seventh Covid-19 wave

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Korea is officially in its seventh Covid-19 wave

People wait in line to get tested for Covid-19 at a public health center in Songpa District, southern Seoul, on Tuesday. [NEWS1]

People wait in line to get tested for Covid-19 at a public health center in Songpa District, southern Seoul, on Tuesday. [NEWS1]

 
Korea is in its seventh wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government declared Wednesday, and is maintaining the indoor mask mandate and the 7-day quarantine for confirmed patients.
 
The nation reported 62,472 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the total caseload to 25,981,655, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). Wednesday’s tally was the largest since Sept. 15’s 71,444 cases.
 
Wednesday’s cases were a 14.1 percent rise from the same day a week before, and a 53 percent increase from the same day two weeks ago.
 

Health authorities officially acknowledged that the country is facing a new wave of the virus.
 
“New infections are rising for four weeks in a row, and the basic reproduction number [R0] is hovering around ‘1’ for three consecutive weeks, showing signs that the winter wave is in full swing,” Minister of Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min said while presiding over a virus response meeting on Wednesday. 
 
If the R0 is larger than 1, it means the epidemic is growing, with each infectious individual infecting more than one other individual.
 
“It is appropriate to call the current virus situation the seventh Covid-19 wave,” added Lee Sang-won, head of the epidemiological investigations team at the Headquarters, in a separate press briefing held the same day.
 
There were 336 hospitalized Covid patients in critical or serious condition, staying above 300 for the sixth day. With the increasing number of critically- or seriously-ill patients, the occupancy rate of ICU beds across the country rose from 15.8 percent in the second week of October to 25.7 percent in the first week of November.
 
Fifty-nine more people died of the virus overnight.
 
Authorities believe the size of the winter wave will be similar to the level of the summer wave. They expect a peak to be reached in December or after.
 
“Based on mathematical modeling done by the KDCA and private experts, the winter wave is expected to widely range between 50,000 to 200,000 new infections per day,” said Peck Kyong-ran, commissioner of the KDCA.
 
“The size of the wave is expected to occur at the level of the summer wave, with a maximum of 180,000 new daily cases and a daily average of 130,000 in a week,” Peck said. “Depending on the inflow of virus variants, the winter wave will reach a peak in December of after.”
 
Despite the new wave, the government ruled out reinstating social distancing rules. Nor will mandatory PCR testing for incoming travelers be reintroduced.
 
The KDCA commissioner hinted the only remaining virus-related restrictions — the indoor mask mandate and the 7-day quarantine rule for infected patients — could be lifted once the seventh wave peaks and subsides.
 
"The remaining virus measures will be maintained until the winter wave stabilizes,” Peck said. “We will consider lifting the measures gradually after the wave hits its peak.”
 
The government emphasized the importance of booster shots to guard against the winter wave. Only three percent of the population have received an updated bivalent Covid-19 booster dose as of Wednesday.
 
To reduce the risk of high-risk groups getting very ill or dying from the virus, authorities will get ready oral treatment for 200,000 people.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun1@joongang.co.kr]
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