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‘Northern Hemisphere should brace for return of Covid-19 in winter’
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2020.05.27 16:14
  • Updated 2020.05.27 16:14
  • comments 0

An infectious disease expert said countries in the Northern Hemisphere, including Korea, should thoroughly revamp the healthcare system to brace for a comeback of Covid-19 in the winter, as the pandemic is taking a heavy toll on South America now.

In particular, Brazil has a spike in the number of new confirmed cases and has ranked second after the U.S. in terms of Covid-19 patients. As of Tuesday, Brazil added 15,691 daily new cases to bring the total to 392,360. In the U.S., the total number of Covid-19 patients stood at 1,725,275.

Lee Jae-gab, a professor of the Infectious Disease Department at Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Heart Hospital, speaks at a conference by the Korean Convalescent Hospital Association on Tuesday.

Brazil recorded more daily Covid-19 deaths than the U.S. The virus killed 1,027 people in Brazil on Tuesday alone, and a total of 24,549 Brazilians have died so far.

The U.S. added 670 deaths on Tuesday, totaling Covid-19 deaths at 100,579.

Lee Jae-gab, a professor of the Infectious Disease Department at Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Heart Hospital, said Covid-19 first appeared in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., and then moved to South America and Africa, at a conference by the Korean Convalescent Hospital Association on Tuesday.

“Covid-19 will spend the winter in South America. When the Northern Hemisphere enters a new winter, I think the virus will move up to the North,” he said.

Lee warned that the authorities should prepare for Covid-19 going from Brazil to the U.S., and then to Korea.

Korea could benchmark Germany, which reported relatively low mortality compared to the number of confirmed cases, and improve the healthcare system for seriously ill patients, he noted.

“Germany’s excellent system of caring severe patients kept Covid-19 death rate below 5 percent. Other countries in Europe have Covid-19 fatality exceeding 10 percent,” Lee said. “Germany is showing how important it is to keep the intensive care and the elderly care system strong.”

On the contrary, the U.K.’s Covid-19 mortality was as high as 14 percent, despite its advanced public health system, Lee said. This was not only because too many patients occurred at once, which overwhelmed the British medical system, but the public healthcare was too weak to care critically ill patients, he added.

Lee predicted that people would need to wait for one or two more years to use a Covid-19 vaccine at clinics.

Although U.S. biotech firm Moderna released a partial result of its phase-1 trial on a Covid-19 vaccine, it was too early to gauge the vaccine’s effectiveness, Lee went on to say.

“As Moderna has to conduct phase-2 and phase-3 trials, the company will be able to produce a prototype vaccine past this year, at the earliest. Even if a prototype vaccine comes out in the market, the U.S. is likely to use it first and release it in other countries later,” he said.

In Korea, it would take at least two years to use a Covid-10 vaccine, he added.

“Even if a prototype vaccine comes out in early next year, it is undecided whether the world would share the patent. So, a Korean-made vaccine will come in the summer of next year at the earliest,” Lee said.

soo331@docdocdoc.co.kr

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