Virus cases exceed 300 as another wave looms

Nov 19, 2020, 09:30 am

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Citizens wearing protective masks walk on a street in Seoul./ Source: Yonhap

AsiaToday reporter Jang Ji-young 

South Korea’s new coronavirus cases hovered above 300 on Wednesday. The government announced that it will curb spiking virus cases with its Level 1.5 social distancing, however many experts say that there is virtually no difference between Level 1 and Level 1.5 and it is not enough to reduce the spread of the virus. Besides, they called on the government to immediately withdraw its discount coupons distributed to boost domestic consumption. Despite concerns of another potential nationwide transmission, anxiety is growing as the government has not come up with any measures.

Experts say the nation appears to be facing a third wave of the pandemic, following the first in February and March stemming from a branch of a minor religious sect in Daegu and the second one in August and September in connection with a church and massive rally in the capital region.

According to the Central Disease Control Headquarters, the country added 313 more COVID-19 cases, raising the total caseload to 29,311. Of the new cases, 245 were local infections while 68 were imported. The number of local cases was the highest in 77 days since September 2, and the number of imported cases was the highest in 116 days since July 25. 

“We are at a crossroads to avoid a major resurgence of COVID-19 as local transmissions are back in full swing,” Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae said at a briefing. “Considering that it usually takes ten days to two weeks to see the effect of social distancing, we have to make efforts now to prevent nationwide pandemic,” Kang said.

The total number of locally transmitted cases over the past week reached 1,271 with average daily number of new cases standing at 181.6. By region, the average daily number of new cases in the greater Seoul area stood at 125.6 and Gangwon at 14.9 over the past week, surpassing the threshold for Level 1.5 for the region. Besides, the total number of new patients aged 60 and up over the past week stood at 385, with daily average of 55 cases. As the number of senior patients increased, the number of seriously or critically ill patients came to 67 on Wednesday. 

However, quarantine authorities say a third wave is not here yet. “Regarding the surge in confirmed patients, it is a critical moment. But I think we are not yet in the situation where we can call it the third wave of infections,” Kang said. 

Regarding the surge in imported cases, Kang said, “I think the number of imported cases is increasing due to the large increase in the number of confirmed cases in winter season in other countries.”

Experts strongly criticized that the epidemic cannot be suppressed with the government’s Level 1.5 social distancing. Besides, they pointed out that the government’s spread of discount coupons contributed to the worsening of the current situation. “The only thing that Level 1.5 is different from Level 1 social distancing is that you are not allowed to dance at clubs and that the number of users in sports stadiums is limited to 30%, not 50%,” said Kim Woo-joo, a professor at Korea University’s Guro Hospital. 

“The government should immediately withdraw its discount coupons instead. They have done it in August, but I wonder why they are not doing it now,” he added,

#COVID-19 #third wave 
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