Concerns grow over COVID-19 resurgence

A medical worker takes a sample from a person for a COVID-19 test at a public health center in Seoul's Yongsan District, Sunday. Newsis

By Lee Hae-rin

The daily number of new COVID-19 infections in Korea has surpassed 10,000 again for the second straight day over the weekend, drawing concerns over a resurgence of the virus after months of declining numbers of new cases.

According to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, the country saw 10,059 new daily cases on Sunday, including 191 from overseas, adding up to 18,389,611 total infections to date.

Sunday's figure is 656 less than Saturday's 10,715, but far more than those of the two previous Sundays, which stood at around 6,000.

Followed by the eased quarantine measures on inbound travelers and the rise in international flights, the daily number of imported cases has reached over 100 for 11 days since it first hit 113 on June 24.

Since the country saw an all-time high of over 620,000 daily cases in March, the spread of the virus has shown a downward trend, remaining under 10,000 since June 9. The number then reached over 10,000 last Wednesday, June 29 at 10,455, and rebounded again this weekend, although the daily number of infections tends to drop over weekends due to fewer tests.

The country reported 53 critically ill patients and eight deaths, raising the death toll to 24,570 and fatality rate to 0.13 percent.

Experts point out that several factors have affected the recent resurgence of the coronavirus and warn about a further spike in coming months.

Kim Woo-joo, a professor of infectious diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital told The Korea Times, Sunday, that the surge of Omicron's highly contagious sub-variants, including BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5 accounts for the waning immunity against the coronavirus globally and the recent increase in the number of new daily COVID-19 infections.

"These are more contagious variants, contracted by those who had already been tested positive and developed immunity against the BA.2 Stealth Omicron sub-variant in many countries," Kim said. According to Kim, such highly contagious variants have been spreading quickly, leading infections to rebound globally, and are likely to become the dominant strains of the virus here within two weeks.

Moreover, the eased social distancing measures and increased human exchanges followed by the resumption of international travel, have all together resulted in the rebound of new infections, as well as the waning effectiveness of vaccination-acquired immunity against the virus.

The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine starts to wane after four to six months following receipt of a booster shot, raising risks of breakthrough infections and reinfections, Kim said.

"The problem is that the pandemic will most likely rebound on an even greater scale this winter," Kim said, explaining that preemptive preparation through vaccination is crucial.

Lee Hae-rin

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