S.Korea's COVID-19 resurgence comes from fatigue, complacency

2021-07-16 11:35:34 GMT2021-07-16 19:35:34(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

By Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, July 16 (Xinhua) -- South Korea has been faced with the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, for which health officials blamed fatigue with the prolonged pandemic and complacency towards the quarantine rules.

The country reported 1,536 more cases of COVID-19 for the past 24 hours, lifting the combined number of infections to 175,046, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said Friday.

It marked the third-highest daily caseload since the first case was found here in January last year. The daily number hovered above 1,000 for the 10th consecutive day.

Asked about the main cause of the resurgence, KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong told a parliamentary health committee earlier this week that the announcement of revised social-distancing schemes and incentive program for vaccinated people seemed to have delivered a message of eased quarantine rules to the general public.

The health authorities announced plans last month to ease social-distancing guidelines from July by allowing larger private gatherings and longer business hours at restaurants and cafes, and offering incentive for inoculated people.

Jeong said the health authorities had discussed ways to harmonize the quarantine rules and the daily lives of people as people got fatigued with the pandemic and the quarantine measures.

Since the third resurgence occurred here in December and January, the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has stayed between 500 and 700 for months. It indicated a potential of another resurgence.

People fatigued with the pandemic lower their guard and increased gatherings, crowding restaurants, bars and cafes last month following the premature message of the health authorities to prepare for the loosened social-distancing.

Some of medical experts attributed the fourth resurgence to the introduction of self-testing kits.

Kim Mi-na, a professor of laboratory medicine at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying the cases were found of people who initially tested negative from the self-testing kits but tested positive later from the official PCR tests.

It raised a possibility for the so-called silent transmission among the infected people who tested negative with the self-testing kits, lived their daily lives in neighborhoods and workplaces, and unwittingly spread virus to others.

The health authorities have not collected data about the usage of self-testing kits, fueling uncertainty over the silent transmission.

The Seoul metropolitan government under new mayor Oh Se-hoon, who was elected in the April by-elections as a candidate of the main conservative opposition People Power Party, implemented a pilot project of using self-testing kits last month.

When the daily number of infections advanced nationwide from 746 on July 6 to 1,212 on July 7, the corresponding figure in Seoul jumped from 313 to 577.

The reading in the surrounding Gyeonggi province, which has a higher population than Seoul, increased from 224 to 357. It was about half of the capital city's growth.

The government planned to maintain the toughest social-distancing rules in Seoul, Gyeonggi province and the west port city of Incheon for two weeks until July 25.

Concern remained about the resurgence in the non-metropolitan region because of the upcoming summer vacation season when people in the capital area moved to countryside to enjoy summer holidays.

The health authorities reportedly planned to announce the ban on private gatherings of five or more people in the non-metropolitan area on the coming weekend. Enditem