Report in August 2021

Covid-19 Situation in South Korea

Ukjin Kim, DVM, PhD
Division of Applied Radiation Bioscience
Korea Institute of Radiological & Medical Sciences (KIRAMS)
Seoul, Republic of Korea,

As of Aug. 20, 2021:
  • a) Total confirmed cases, 232,859
  • b) Newly confirmed cases on that day: 2,052
  • c) Active cases on that date: 27,887
  • d) Cases in ICU: unknown
  • e) Total death cases: 2,197
  • f) New death cases on that day: 6

The biggest problem with this pandemic is its irreversible impact on the economy. To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, cafes and restaurants closed after 9 pm (but, delivery and to-go is available) in the metropolitan area. Alcohol restrictions or price restrictions on daily necessities have never been enforced in Korea (2021-08-20). Yet, it is difficult to give an answer as to the effectiveness of these countermeasures.

In Korea, stimulus check has been provided to self-employed people who have suffered a major blow to their income due to the COVID-19. We are also discussing providing stimulus check to 88% of the people, excluding the top 12% of income earners.

So far, lockdown has not been enforced in Korea (2021-08-20).

In one case, a fine of 2 million won was imposed for going out during self-quarantine. If you do not observe social distancing or wear a mask, you will be fined 3 million won.

COVID-19 testing is in progress with a PCR kit. COVID-19 tests are generally free, but you will need to pay for your own personal needs (for example, if you need a negative result for overseas departure, about 120,000~200,000 Won). On April 18, 2021, the first case of the delta mutant was detected in Korea. Since then, delta mutant have been continuously detected among confirmed patients. Lambda mutant has not yet been identified in Korea (2021-08-20).

The total population of Korea is approximately 51.8 million, with 8 million (15%) under the age of 18 and 43.9 million (85%) over the age of 19. The first vaccination in Korea started on February 26, 2021. Overseas Koreans and long-term resident foreigners can receive vaccines under the same conditions as Koreans if they are registered with the government and meet the requirements. Vaccinations for illegal immigrants and undocumented foreigners also started on August 5, 2021. The government plans to complete the first vaccination by September and complete the second vaccination by October to achieve herd immunity for 70% of the people by November. In Korea, four types of vaccines are being used to vaccinate the population: AZ, Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen. Currently, 24,812,397 people (48.3%) had received the first inoculation and 11,106,027 people (21.6%) were completely inoculated (2021-08-20). Vaccinations are provided free of charge.

Figure 1. A man getting vaccinated at a public health center in Korea
Figure 2. Vials of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine stock (Left) and the vaccine diluted in normal saline for injection (Right).

Currently, Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences in the US, and Regkirona, Korea's first COVID-19 treatment, developed by Celltrion are used in Korea as a treatment for COVID-19

Korean Red Cross is carrying out various relief activities for an early end of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is raising money for this. The donations are used to provide relief sets such as masks, hand sanitizers, and emergency food sets, as well as counseling by disaster psychology experts for the vulnerable and self-quarantined people. In addition, through the Red Cross Hospital operated by the Red Cross, they are supporting patient treatment and screening of confirmed cases, and the donations are also used to support medical staff, quarantine activities, and support for daily necessities for low-income families.

This pandemic is having a huge negative impact on society, cutting ties with family and friends, and increasing unemployment. However, there was also the advantage of reducing the infection of diseases such as influenza as the people's hygiene concept was improved through the pandemic. It also contributed greatly to the development of industries such as COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Although this pandemic has a serious impact, overcoming it will provide an opportunity to develop the ability to respond to the new pandemic in the future.