Gov't urged to initiate emergency brake on 'Living with COVID-19' scheme - Korea Times
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Gov't urged to initiate emergency brake on 'Living with COVID-19' scheme

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Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum readjusts his mask during a COVID-19 response meeting at the Government Complex Sejong, Wednesday.  Yonhap
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum readjusts his mask during a COVID-19 response meeting at the Government Complex Sejong, Wednesday. Yonhap

Daily caseload tops 4,000 for 1st time

By Bahk Eun-ji

Experts are calling on the government to revert to its contingency plan, which it had said it would initiate if the risk level from the COVID-19 pandemic became higher, saying the situation will only get worse if the current eased social distancing regulations for the "Living with COVID-19" plan continue.

The administration, however, is just repeating it is reviewing the necessity of applying the "emergency brake" to its envisioned return to normalcy

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 4,115 new daily infections for Tuesday, an all-time high since the pandemic started here in January last year.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Wednesday that the situation in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan area was serious enough to consider employing the contingency plan soon, as about 80 percent of total infections are taking place in the greater capital area.

"We are in the fourth week after adopting the gradual return to normalcy plan. It is now time to make a decision on whether to move on to the next stage, but the situation is much more serious than expected," Kim said in a regular COVID-19 response meeting.

The KDCA also said earlier this week that the country as a whole was at "high" in its virus risk assessment system, while the Seoul metropolitan area was at "very high."

Critically ill patients stood at 586 as of Tuesday, the largest number ever, and 35 additional deaths had been reported.

However, Sohn Young-rae, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said the recent daily caseloads had been expected after Living with COVID-19 was introduced.

"But the increase in the number of critical patients is increasing faster than expected," he said in a regular press briefing.

Sohn said the authorities were reviewing various countermeasures, such as initiating a contingency plan or reducing the cap for private gatherings, adding nothing has been confirmed.

The experts warned of further increases in the number of patients, saying the government should have eased the social distancing rules more gradually.

"Under various simulations, the number was expected to go over 5,000 in the second week of December," Gachon University Gil Hospital professor Eom Joong-sik said.

He said the increase of the number of infections had been expected but the problem was critically ill patients, adding vaccination was the only solution but that it would take some time to inoculate vulnerable people with booster shots.

Chon Eun-mi, a professor at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital, said, "The return to normalcy program was adopted with eased regulations although the fourth wave of the pandemic had not been addressed."

In the meantime, a fetus infected with the coronavirus died, the first time this has happened here, the KDCA said.

The mother became infected with the virus Nov. 18 when she was 24 weeks pregnant ― the fetus died four days later and so was surgically removed. It was later tested and the results came back positive for COVID-19, the KDCA said. The woman had not been vaccinated.


Bahk Eun-ji ejb@koreatimes.co.kr


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