December 06, 2021 09:06
A record 70 people died of or with coronavirus last Friday, little over a month after Korea began a phased return to normal. Until then the number of daily fatalities had hovered between 30 to 40 in spite of a surge in infections.
Supposing it takes between two and four weeks between diagnosis and death, the recent surge in infections could lead to a spike in fatalities around the middle of this month. "This is a belated reflection of a surge in infections and severe cases in November," said Ma Sang-hyuk of the Korea Vaccine Society. "The number of daily infections increased to about 5,000 recently, while a shortage of hospital beds and the slow response by the government is leading to more deaths."
Meanwhile, more people tested positive for the new Omicron variant across the country over the weekend, raising the total to 24 with suspected cases found in Seoul and North Chungcheong Province.
Among the suspected cases are a woman in her 20s in Seoul, a woman in her 70s in North Chungcheong Province and three university students in Seoul who all attended a church in Incheon that seems to be the source of the infections.
The medical system in the capital region is overloaded, resulting in coronavirus patients dying before they can be assigned hospital beds. According to health authorities, 10 COVID-19 patients died from Nov. 21-27 before they received proper treatment.
Some experts blame the government for failing to prepare for the surge in infections in time for lockdown to be lifted.
Officials only began discussions in preparation for the phased return to normal in October and failed to secure enough ICU beds for severe cases in time. Choi Jae-wook at Korea University, said, "Even if Omicron turns out to be less severe and fatal than the Delta variant, we could end up with a sharp increase in deaths if it is more contagious and vaccine immunity wanes."
On Monday morning, the daily tally of new coronavirus infections stood at 4,325 with 727 severe cases.
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