Young People 'at Greater Risk of Spreading Coronavirus'

  • By Jung Seok-woo

    November 24, 2020 12:34

    Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency chief Jeong Eun-kyeong warned Monday that young people are at greater risk of spreading coronavirus.

    Jeong was referring to a study of 6,859 Army boot camp trainees in September and October, most of whom are in their early 20s, which showed that 15 of them had COVID-19 antibodies.

    Soldiers on leave wait to board a train at Seoul Station on Monday. /Newsis

    That would translate into a proportion of 0.22 percent or three times higher than the estimate for the overall Korean population. They were compared to a control group of 1,379 people of all ages.

    Excluding 10 who had already recovered from COVID-19, 15 had the antibodies, but in the control group only one person or 0.07 percent had antibodies -- excluding two who had already tested positive for the virus and recovered.

    That means the 15 were "hidden" carriers because they did not realize they had the virus and recovered without getting tested and treated.

    "Younger people tend to show milder symptoms and often do not get tested, and there is a strong possibility that they could be silently spreading the virus," Jeong said. "Many infections have been reported in private crammers and universities. We will hold talks with the Ministry of Education and expand online classes and bolster inspections of study groups and other gatherings of young people."

    As of Monday, the transmission route of 11.8 percent of new cases remains a mystery.

    Young revelers gather in the trendy Hongik University area in Seoul on Tuesday as bars and restaurants are closed for a fresh lockdown. /Yonhap

    "We have accumulated cases in a study over the past 10 months. The cases that are asymptomatic or show only minor symptoms have become more widespread, while small groups of infections continue to spread across the country," Jeong said.

    Meanwhile, the daily tally of new cases soared to 349 as of Tuesday morning, just a day after falling below 300.

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