Fears of COVID Surge Due to 'Hidden' Infections

  • By Choi Eun-kyung

    November 23, 2022 09:39

    Korea saw the highest number of daily coronavirus infections in some two months on Tuesday. The rate of increase is steady, but the number of serious cases and deaths remains high. Health experts attributed the trend to infected people avoiding testing.
    Daily new infections reached 70,324 on Wednesday morning, down slightly from 72,873 the previous day and the most since Sept. 14. There were 477 serious cases in hospital, above 400 for the fifth day running, while 53 infected people died, down from more than 60 late last week.
    Still, the fatality rate has been rising again from 0.06 percent in August to 0.07 percent in September and October and more than 0.08 percent so far this month.
    Health officials believe this is because of an increase in "hidden" patients who avoid getting tested. The Omicron strain is less lethal than the Delta variant, but the rising number of deaths suggests that many more people are not being tallied but they end up developing serious symptoms.
    Despite the resurgence, Koreans are now reluctant to get any more vaccine shots. In a survey in early November by Seoul National University's Graduate School of Public Health, 36.3 percent or more than one third of respondents said additional vaccine shots this winter are unnecessary.
    This is because there have been millions of breakthrough infections where vaccinated people got infected, creating the perception that the vaccines are useless. Some 56.6 percent of the 587,532 people who were infected last month had been vaccinated three times but just 16.9 percent had the jab four times.
    The rate of extra booster shots this winter stands at just six percent and even among the elderly and patients in nursing homes, who are most at risk and account nearly all deaths, it is only a little over 17 percent.
    The government says the vaccination rate must rise to 50 to 60 percent to avert a huge wave of infections this winter.
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