- The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 7,622 new cases, nearly matching the daily high of 7,850 sets the day before.
- The four-person gathering limit will only apply to fully vaccinated adults, according to Health Minister Kwon Deok-Cheol.
As hospitals grapple with the pandemic’s deadliest month, South Korea is enacting the country’s toughest coronavirus restrictions yet, prohibiting private social gatherings of five or more people nationwide and forcing restaurants to close at 9 p.m.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said that the new measures, which go into effect on Saturday, will be enforced for at least 16 days, citing the urgent need to bring the country to a “standstill” as the delta-driven surge overwhelms hospitals and medical workers.
After fully reopening in November, schools in the densely populated capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas will return to remote learning, where the virus has struck hardest.
On Thursday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 7,622 new cases, nearly matching the daily high of 7,850 sets the day before. The national caseload now stands at 544,117, with nearly 97,000 new cases added in December alone.
Most of the transmissions occurred in the capital region, where officials say more than 86 percent of COVID-19 intensive care units are already full due to a surge in hospitalizations and deaths.
This month, more than 890 virus patients died, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 4,518. A total of 989 patients were in serious or critical condition as of Thursday morning, a new high.
During a virus meeting, Kim, Seoul’s No. 2 behind President Moon Jae-in, said, “During this period of standstill, the government will reinforce the stability of our medical response capabilities.” “We ask that our people actively participate in these efforts by getting vaccinated.”
President Moon Jae-government in’s has suffered a major setback due to the viral outbreak, which had significantly loosened social distancing rules in November while declaring a phased return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Officials predicted that the country’s rising vaccination rates would keep hospitalizations and fatalities low while improving the economy. However, serious cases have increased among people in their 60s and older, including those whose immunity has waned due to getting inoculated early in the vaccine rollout, which began in February.
Over 81 percent of the country’s 51 million people have been fully vaccinated, but only 17 percent have received booster shots.
Officials moderately tightened social distancing guidelines last week, banning gatherings of seven or more people in the Seoul metropolitan area and requiring adults to verify their vaccination status before using restaurants and other businesses after weeks of hesitation. Still, the virus’ spread was not significantly slowed.
If the country fails to meaningfully slow transmissions now, according to KDCA Commissioner Jung Eun-kyeong, daily infections could exceed 10,000 or 20,000 in the coming weeks. She predicted that the number of serious cases would rise to between 1,600 and 1,900, exceeding what hospitals could handle without jeopardizing non-COVID-19 care.
“In the Seoul metropolitan area, we’re seeing an average of 4,700 new cases, which is significantly higher than the hospital system’s maximum capacity of 3,600,” Jung said during a press conference.
The four-person gathering limit will only apply to fully vaccinated adults, according to Health Minister Kwon Deok-Cheol. According to Kwon, those who haven’t been fully vaccinated will have to eat alone in restaurants.
Children under the age of 18 will be exempt from the rules. Restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, and karaoke bars must close at 9 p.m., while movie theatres, concert halls, and private cram schools must close at 10 p.m.
Source: CP24 News
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