S. Korea lowers critical COVID-19 cases forecast amid gradual decline in overall cases

Posted on : 2022-03-31 17:19 KST Modified on : 2022-03-31 17:19 KST
Disease control authorities readjusted their outlook from 2,000 to between 1,300 and 1,700 critical cases
Staff at the Seoul Clinical Laboratories in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, arrange specimens after screening on March 30. (Yonhap News)
Staff at the Seoul Clinical Laboratories in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, arrange specimens after screening on March 30. (Yonhap News)

After hovering around the peak, South Korea’s daily tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has entered a gradual decline. The number of critically ill patients is above 1,300, the highest it has been so far, but the government doesn’t expect that number to spike and has lowered its projected maximum.

“The number of new cases has been on the decline since reaching the peak two weeks ago,” Son Young-rae, director of the Central Disaster Management Headquarters’ social strategy group, said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

“However, that decline has been slowed by the spread of the BA.2 subvariant [called ‘stealth’ Omicron] among other factors. We are currently at an important time when that decline is continuing and becoming more noticeable,” he said.

The Korean disease control authorities reported Wednesday that 424,641 new cases of COVID-19 had been detected the previous day. That pushed the daily tally above 400,000 for the first time in a week, but that was more than 66,000 down from the case count a week prior. The seven-day moving average has also declined gently since cresting at 405,010 on March 17 to 335,461 on Wednesday, down 70,000 from the peak.

Korea’s disease control authorities said earlier that the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron had become the dominant strain of the coronavirus last week with a detection rate of 56.3% and predicted that BA.2 would drag out the decline in new cases.

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients in Korea hit a pandemic record of 1,301 Wednesday, but that was still lower than initial expectations, officials explained.

“At first, we had predicted that the number of critically ill patients would peak around 2,000, but our current analysis is that the peak will be between 1,300 and 1,700. We expect the incidence of critical cases will go down because of the nature of Omicron and the prescription of oral antivirals,” Son said.

But officials plan to keep an eye on fatalities. Korea reported 432 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, the second-highest number so far.

“The number of deaths typically begins to increase somewhat after the number of critically ill patients. But in this wave of the pandemic, the number of deaths surged in the beginning and has remained fairly static during the period when it ought to have gone up. We’ll have to keep tracking the situation if we’re to determine whether deaths will double or triple, as some experts fear, or whether they’ll remain at their current level before gradually falling,” Son added.

By Jang Hyeon-eun, staff reporter; Kwon Ji-dam, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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