South Korea reported a record-breaking daily total of 7,175 new cases of Covid as authorities urged people to complete their vaccinations.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum warned hospitals were under intense pressure amid an increase in severe cases, days after the government announced a return to tighter restrictions on social gatherings.
The total number of cases rose to 489,484 as of Wednesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. This is an increase of 2,221 from the previous day, the biggest daily jump since the start of the pandemic.
The number of critically ill patients also reached a record high of 840, up 66 from a day earlier, while the death toll rose by 63 to 4,020, the agency said. People over the age of 60 account for 35% of the total caseload and 84% of critically ill patients, including those whose immunity has weakened since they received their first two doses of the vaccine at the start. of this year.
Kim said the government would increase the number of hospital beds in the Seoul area, where 80% of infections have been reported, but acknowledged that it would be “difficult to keep pace with the increase in cases.”
It would also mobilize more medical staff to monitor patients with mild symptoms who are treating themselves at home and speed up hospital transfers among those who develop severe symptoms, Kim said at a virus response meeting. Private clinics would be enlisted to treat Covid patients to ease pressure on large hospitals, he added.
The recent outbreak, in a country that had been relatively successful in keeping infections and deaths to a minimum, is attributed to young people who have not yet been fully immunized and older citizens who have not received a booster.
After keeping the virus under control during much of the pandemic, South Korea has recorded, on average, more than 5,000 new cases a day over the past week. He identified 38 cases of the Omicron variant.
In response, the government introduced stricter social distancing and other measures on Monday that will remain in place until early January, the Yonhap news agency said – a move just weeks after easing the measures in the approaching part of his “life with Covid-19”.
Private gatherings will be limited to a maximum of six people in the Seoul area and eight outside the capital. The numbers were previously capped at 10 and 12.
Additionally, people wishing to access “high-risk” places such as pubs, saunas and gyms will need to show full proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.
Kim acknowledged that the measures would create anxiety among small business owners, but added, “We know from experience that if virus prevention falters, so do people’s lives. “
Although 80.7% of South Korea’s 52 million people have been doubly vaccinated, young people are urged to complete their vaccinations after the Education Ministry reported this week that nearly all children and youth diagnosed with Covid-19 in the previous fortnight had not received their second dose. Only 8.8% of the population received a booster dose, Yonhap said.