July 21, 2023
SEOUL – South Korea’s weekly new COVID-19 cases rose to over 180,000 through Wednesday, amid the summer holiday season, data showed Thursday.
The country reported 186,953 new COVID-19 infections for the week of July 9-15, up 22.2 percent from the previous week, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.
During this period, the average number of new COVID-19 cases per day was 26,708, up nearly 5,000 from the previous week.
The average daily number of new cases per week has been rising faster each week. The figure stood at 16,025 in the third week of June, 17,442 in the fourth week of June, 21,857 in the first week of July, and 26,708 in the second week of July.
The number of new COVID-19 cases had remained stable for some time, but it has begun to increase as the summer holiday season has gotten underway.
The COVID-19 infection reproduction index, an indicator showing the ability of the coronavirus or any other disease to spread, has stayed above 1 for the past three weeks, meaning cases are on the rise.
However, the KDCA said that the degree of risk posed by the virus appears to have lowered recently, with a 0.03 percent fatality rate. The intensive care bed occupancy rate remained below 30 percent, as of last week, the KDCA noted.
The pandemic risk level, a five-tier assessment system the KDCA has introduced to evaluate the degree of COVID-19 risk, has remained at the second-lowest level across the country for six months.
As planned, the KDCA will implement the “second phase of daily recovery measures” from next month.
Earlier, quarantine authorities introduced the “first phase of daily recovery measures” starting from June 1, downgrading the status of the COVID-19 crisis from “serious,” the highest level, to “alert.”
Major antivirus measures have been eased, such as lifting the quarantine mandate and converting to a recommendation for mask-wearing, except for some vulnerable places, including hospital-grade or higher medical institutions that treat inpatients or residential medical facilities with groups vulnerable to infectious diseases.
In the second phase, COVID-19 will be treated like other respiratory infectious diseases. The mask-wearing mandate will be lifted everywhere, including vulnerable places. Support for COVID-19 testing costs and medical expenses will only be covered for some people, such as the elderly.
Also, the official infectious disease rating for COVID-19 will be revised from current level 2 to level 4, the same as influenza. The rating for COVID-19 had been level 1 since the outbreak, but it was adjusted to level 2 last year. Level 2 infectious diseases should be reported to the government within 24 hours of occurrence, but there is no such obligation for level 4 diseases.