COVID Raises Its Ugly Head Again

      July 20, 2023 13:44

      Coronavirus is raising its ugly head again. New COVID cases have risen from 10,000-20,000 a day so far this year to over 30,000 in July. The reason may be that more people mingle outdoors during the heat wave or because the rainy season makes them more susceptible to all kinds of infections.
      According to health authorities, 186,953 new cases were reported in the second week of July, up 22.2 percent from a week earlier. The average daily number increased from 16,025 in the third week of June to 26,708 in the second week of July, up for three weeks in a row.
      COVID cases reached a new peak of 31,224 on July 11, exceeding 30,000 for the first time in six months.
      Travelers pass by a coronavirus test facility in Incheon International Airport on Wednesday.
      Normally the virus is less active in the warmer months. At the start of June, any remaining self-isolation rules and mask mandate were lifted as the disease became endemic, and now hardly anyone cares about face masks any more.
      Experts attribute the latest surge to the reduced immunity from vaccines since Koreans are now reluctant to get jabbed again because of the unpleasant side effects and dubious efficacy.
      Lee Jae-gap at Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Heart Hospital said, "The effects of vaccines almost disappear six months to a year after they are given." Elderly and vulnerable people were last given a jab between October and December last year.
      "Many elderly patients in nursing facilities have been taken to hospital with COVID," he said. Their number jumped 51 percent from 31,160 in the third week of June to 47,115 in the second week of July.
      The appearance of new, vaccine-resistant variants is cited as another reason for the latest surge. Jung Jae-hun at Gachon University's Gil Medical Center said, "New variants keep appearing while immunity wanes over time, leading up to an increase in new infections again."
      Health authorities are on alert for an omicron variant called XBB that is particularly resistant to existing vaccines. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency plans to begin administering vaccines that target the variant in October.
      However, the KDCA does not consider the latest surge serious given that the proportion of critically ill patients and the fatality rate are still low at 0.13 percent and 0.03 percent as of the fourth week of June.
      A KDCA official said, "We're keeping the weekly COVID risk level at 'low' for the 26th week in a row because we have sufficient medical resources."
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