S. Korea to ease monitoring on COVID-19 patients; new virus cases above 35,000 for 3rd day

February 7, 2022

South Korea will ease some monitoring and quarantine measures for low-risk COVID-19 patients, health authorities said Monday, as the highly infectious omicron variant continues to strain medical workers and government officials.

On Monday, the country reported 35,286 new COVID-19 infections, staying at more than 35,000 cases for three days in a row Monday despite fewer tests over the weekend, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The total caseload increased to 1,044,963.

The accumulated virus caseload surpassed a grim milestone of 1 million the previous day, two years after South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case.

Daily infection tallies tend to slow on Mondays due to fewer tests on the weekend, but the fast spread of omicron appears to have broken the trend.
Health authorities said the number of new COVID-19 patients could possibly reach between 130,000 and 170,000 by the end of this month as omicron has become the country’s dominant strain.

People wait in line to get tested for the coronavirus in Songpa, eastern Seoul, on Feb. 7, 2022. (Yonhap)
This photo, taken Feb. 7, 2022, shows piles of boxes containing rapid COVID-19 antigen test kits, which were delivered to a state medical center in eastern Seoul. (Yonhap)

People wait in line to get tested for the coronavirus in Songpa, eastern Seoul, on Feb. 7, 2022. (Yonhap)

Health authorities and local governments had reported 23,351 new cases as of 6 p.m., down 333 from the same time the previous day. Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

The daily tally surged to over 30,000 for the first time on Saturday, just three days after breaking the 20,000 mark. The figure topped the 10,000 level for the first time on Jan. 26.

The death toll from COVID-19 came to 6,886, up 13 from Sunday. The fatality rate was 0.66 percent.

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients was 270, down two from a day earlier, the KDCA said. The number has stayed in the 200s range for 10 days in a row.

The authorities said the omicron variant is twice more transmissible than the previous delta variant, but it has up to about one-third chance of developing into severe cases.

The KDCA said intensive care unit beds for critically ill COVID-19 patients were 18.2 percent full nationwide, staying at a stable level.

At-home care patients rose 17,729 from the previous day to a total of 146,445 due to the fast spread of mild COVID-19 patients or those without symptoms, the KDCA said.

KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong even forecast at-home care patients may reach around 1 million by early March.

“The number of new patients has doubled for three weeks in a row,” Jeong said during a meeting at the National Assembly, adding that treatment should be more focused on patients aged 60 or older from now on.

The authorities said at-home care treatment will now be more focused on patients aged 60 or older, with up to 650 institutions across the country that could monitor up to 210,000 people.

The KDCA said the fast spread of the omicron variant has overwhelmed health workers and government officials, leading the authorities to end their daily checkup calls of low-risk COVID-19 patients treated at home.

The authorities said health officials will now make daily checkup calls to only high-risk COVID-19 patients in their 60s or older or those with preexisting medical conditions.

Low-risk patients, aged in their 50s or younger, will now be left to monitor their conditions by themselves and contact local hospitals if their symptoms deteriorate.

Also, COVID-19 patients will no longer be required to report to local health officials when they leave home to visit doctors, the KDCA said.

The authorities said family members of COVID-19 patients can now freely go out to buy food, medicine or other necessities despite being in the at-home care period.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Gyeonggi Province that surrounds Seoul reported 9,780, followed by Seoul with 6,873 and the western port city of Incheon with 2,366, the KDCA said. Daily new cases from overseas went down 34 from a day earlier.