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Omicron surge ‘necessary process’ to get to endemic stage, says Health Ministry

Health Ministry spokesperson Son Young-rae (Yonhap)
Health Ministry spokesperson Son Young-rae (Yonhap)
South Korea’s top health official said Monday the surge the country is experiencing now is necessary to move toward an endemic phase from the pandemic, and omicron’s milder severity aids the transition.

Son Young-rae, the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s spokesperson, said the recent uptick in hospitalizations and deaths driven by the omicron variant “does not warrant the same level of alarm as with the delta wave.”

From cases diagnosed Jan. 16-29, the overall fatality rate from omicron stood at about 0.13 percent, he said, which is much lower than delta’s 0.7 percent.

He said in people younger than 50, omicron’s fatality rate was about 0.02 percent. Among people under 50 who are fully vaccinated, the rate was “even lower, virtually zero,” he said. “So in fully vaccinated people, omicron is turning out to be less lethal than the seasonal influenza.”

Though Son has assured that hospitals are operating smoothly under the ongoing surge, workers say staffing shortages and influxes of patients are already posing a strain.

Hospital workforces are already being depleted due to infections among staffers, according to Dr. Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease professor at Korea University Medical Center. He said some 70 to 80 medical workers at his hospital were currently unable to come into work following infection or exposure.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Eom Joong-sik at Gachon University Medical Center said hospital beds were filling up from incidental hospitalizations, which is when a patient is initially admitted for other ailments and later tests positive for COVID-19.

Korea officially surpassed 2 million cumulative cases with those reported for the 24 hours of Sunday. Amid the omicron wave, daily numbers of infections exceeded 100,000 for the three days of Thursday to Saturday. An average of 46 deaths were logged each day of the past week.

By Kim Arin (
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Korea Herald daum