The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients in the hospital has dropped below 500 in 29 days. The number of critically ill patients during the week also decreased from the previous week, meeting three of the four criteria for mandatory adjustment of indoor masks set forth by the epidemic prevention authorities. The government will discuss the adjustment of indoor mask mandates at an expert advisory body on the 17th.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 0:00 on the 15th, there were 32,570 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, a decrease of 14,173 from one week ago (46,743 on the 8th). The number of new cases per day has been steadily declining since hitting 60,024 on Jan. 10. There were 499 critically ill patients, six fewer than the previous day (505). It has fallen below 500 for the first time in nearly a month since December 17 last year. The new death toll stands at 37.
When the government announced the mandatory adjustment criteria for wearing masks indoors on 23 March, it presented four reference points: a decrease in the number of new cases for two consecutive weeks, a decrease in critically ill patients compared to the previous week, a weekly fatality rate of 0.1% or less, a capacity of 50% or more for intensive care beds within 4 weeks, a winter booster vaccination rate of 50% for the elderly and 60% or more for vulnerable facilities. Of these, the availability of intensive care beds was already achieved when the government announced it, meeting two out of four as new cases fell for the second week in a row. In addition, as the number of critically ill patients that exceeded 500~600 gradually decreased, the indicators of critical illness and death also achieved the mandatory adjustment standard for wearing masks indoors.
In the last week (January 9~15), the average number of critically ill patients per day was 519, a decrease of 10.7% from the previous week (January 2~8, 581). The weekly fatality rate announced by the Korea Disease Agency is 0.07% as of the 3rd week of December last year (December 18~24). As for the winter booster vaccination rate, which was the only one that did not meet among the four, the vaccination rate in vulnerable facilities was 60.5% as of the last 13 days, achieving "half."
The National Advisory Committee on Epidemic Prevention Policy, an expert advisory body on COVID-19 prevention policy, will hold its 12th meeting on the afternoon of the 17th to evaluate the situation of indoor mask mandatory adjustment indicators and discuss the management status such as COVID-19 trends in China. As many of the reference values issued by the Korea Disease Agency have been met, discussions are expected to take place in the direction of relaxing indoor mask obligations. As the government has already finalized and announced measures to prevent the Lunar New Year holiday, full-scale mandatory adjustments are likely to be implemented after the Lunar New Year holiday.
The biggest obstacle to easing indoor mask mandates is COVID-19 originating from China. With the mandatory requirement for arrivals from China to submit a negative test before entering the country, the COVID-19 positivity rate from China has recently dropped to around 10%. Of the 345 short-stay foreigners from China who underwent PCR (gene amplification) tests at the airport quarantine station on the 14th, 30 were confirmed to be positive, and the positivity rate was 8.7%. This was a slight increase from the previous day (5.5%). From the last 2 days to the previous day, when the mandatory testing for arrivals from China was applied, the cumulative positivity rate of short-stay foreigners from China who are subject to airport testing is 15.4%. [KyunghyangShinmoon]