December 17, 2021 09:19
President Moon Jae-in apologized to the country on Thursday after a phased return to normal ended up creating more serious COVID-19 cases than the health system can handle.
"I am very sorry that we have to strengthen lockdown measures once again," Moon was quoted as saying by Cheong Wa Dae spokespwoman Park Kyung-mee. "In the course of the return to normal, we were unable to suppress the increase in critically ill patients and failed to secure enough hospital beds."
A little over two weeks ago he vowed there will be "no turning back."
The surge in infections continues. Jeong Eun-kyeong, the head of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said, "If the surge in infections worsens, we could see daily cases rise to around 10,000 and up to 20,000 in January. Our medical capacity is reaching its limits."
"Average daily infections in the greater Seoul area stand at around 4,700, which is far higher than the 3,600 that can be managed," she added.
The KDCA in a projection on Dec. 10 forecast up to 20,000 daily infections by the end of January and said, "The number of new infections can grow at any moment due to eased lockdown, increased traffic, seasonal factors and the spread of the Omicron variant due to the phased return to normal."
The fresh lockdown, which includes a curfew for restaurants and cafés and a ban on gatherings of more than four people, is based on daily new cases reaching 10,000 a day. But that may still be too optimistic.
Chung Jae-hoon at Gachon University's Gil Medical Center said, "If we fail to control the rate of infection, we could see more than 20,000 daily cases in the first half of next year and in the worst-case scenario 80,000 to 100,000."
On Friday morning, the daily tally of new COVID-19 infections stood at 7,435 with 971 severe cases.
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