People wait in line for COVID-19 tests at a local testing station in Songpa-gu, Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
South Korea’s daily COVID-19 infections surpassed 150,000, reaching a four-month high since April, the government announced Wednesday. The number of critically ill patients also topped 400, amid a prolonged resurgence fueled by the fast spread of a highly contagious omicron strain.
“The speed at which COVID-19 spreads is accelerating again,” Lee Ki-il, a deputy health minister, said during a COVID-19 response meeting on Wednesday.
The country added 151,792 new COVID-19 cases during the 24 hours of Tuesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Of the new cases, 615 were from overseas.
The figure was the highest since April 12, when the government added 195,387 cases. It was also up from the previous day’s 149,897 and 119,922 a week prior.
The number of critically ill patients and deaths from COVID-19 also continued to rise. The number of seriously ill patients rose to 402 on Tuesday, up from 364 a day ago. The country also reported 50 new deaths from the virus, the highest in around 80 days. The death toll came to 25,382, and the fatality rate was 0.12 percent.
Lee said the reproduction rate last week came to 1.14, decreasing for the third consecutive week, but there are still many other risks that can fuel the ongoing resurgence. “The KDCA currently expects the resurgence to peak at some 200,000 during August,” Lee added.
Health authorities anticipated that the resurgence would peak at around 280,000 on June 18. However, they lowered their estimate to 200,000 during the same month and 150,000 earlier this month.
The KDCA on Wednesday, however, changed its projection once more as the number of daily cases started to surge in line with the summer holiday season here.
Lee said the government will strengthen the monitoring of facilities that are vulnerable to COVID-19 infections. According to Lee, a total of 2,445 COVID-19 infections took place at senior care hospitals and related facilities.
Lee added the government would increase support for people who are going through mental health issues due to the prolonged pandemic. “Indicators show that the public’s mental health improved after lifting of social distancing rules, but the proportions of people who have shown risks of developing depression and suicidal thoughts have increased by five times and three times, respectively,” Lee said.