They call them “reactivated,” or patients who had coronavirus, recovered, were cleared by health officials, but are now testing positive for the active virus again.
In South Korea, more than 100 people who were initially clearly of the virus are now sick again, which is raising concerns across a country which has successfully held down the spread of the virus.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the apparent relapses. But Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), has said the virus may have been reactivated rather than the patients being re-infected. Others question if faulty testing played a part, incorrectly showing the virus as active instead of just present, as you would expect in a patient who recovered.
Maybe. When 10 or 20 patients show positive it’s easy to attribute it to inaccurate results, but the numbers are more worrying now that there are more than 100 cases.
South Korea has called on residents to follow strict social distancing until at least April 19, but as cases have dropped and the weather has improved, a growing number of people have been flouting the guidelines.
At a meeting on disaster management on Monday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government would soon be looking to loosen the guidelines, which call for people to stay at home, avoid social gatherings of any type, and only go out for essential reasons. But he cautioned that life will not go back to what it was before the virus outbreak.
“We need a very cautious approach because any premature easing of social distancing could bring irreversible consequences, and have to ponder deeply about when and how we switch to the new system.”
If the virus can reinfect, or “reactivate” in, recovered patients, it would create a new set of problems for populations around the world. Let’s hope that bad tests are to blame so we can quickly get back to some semblance of normal.