S. Korea’s latest virus wave may peak in August, reports JPMorgan

The country reported 2,150 new infections in the past week, compared to only about 200 new weekly cases earlier this month

SEOUL • South Korea’s latest wave of coronavirus cases might infect about 7,000 people through early November with net infections to peak by the end of August, according to a report from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The outbreak will be smaller in scale than seen previously as testing and tracing have been strengthened with stricter social-distancing rules in place, insurance analysts led by MW Kim wrote in the note dated Aug 20. JPMorgan’s previous forecast in February that Korea’s virus cases in March may peak at 10,000 in its first wave proved to be about accurate: Total infections were at 9,786 at the end of March and new cases fell after that.

The Korean government is studying whether it needs to raise social-distancing restrictions to the highest level as officials warn the country is at the risk of a “massive nationwide outbreak”. The country reported 2,150 new infections in the past week, compared to only about 200 new weekly cases earlier this month. South Korea has had more than 17,000 cases (at press time) since the pandemic started.

The recent infection resurgence is largely due to large-scale economic reopening and relaxed social distancing, the report said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said a treatment based on blood plasma donated by people who’ve recovered from Covid-19 will be expanded, even before researchers fully understand how well it works.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Auckland will stay in lockdown four days longer than planned. South Korea’s president said the country has no choice but to raise social-distancing measures to the highest level if the spread isn’t contained. The Indonesian island of Bali will remain closed to foreign visitors for the rest of the year.

Europe is seeing a resurgence of cases, while infections in the US eased. Tokyo reported the lowest number of new cases since early July, in the latest sign that its outbreak may have peaked. — Bloomberg