On Friday, the number of new coronavirus infections in South Korea surpassed 7,000 for the third day in a row, in a record-breaking rise that has overwhelmed hospitals and jeopardized the country’s objective of surviving the epidemic without lockdowns.
If the virus does not slow down soon, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum stated during a viral meeting that the government may be compelled to take “exceptional” steps. Officials issued administrative directives forcing hospitals throughout the country to set aside 2,000 more COVID-19 treatment beds.
Starting next week, the government will cut the time between the second and third vaccination injections from four to five months to three months, according to Kim.
Around 41.5 million people, or 81 percent of the country’s population of more over 51 million, have had complete vaccinations, while just 10% have received booster injections.
In recent weeks, the delta-driven expansion has been followed by an increase in hospitalizations and fatalities, many of whom are in their 60s or older and whose immunities have faded after getting vaccinated early in the vaccine rollout, which began in February.
Beginning Monday, officials increased restrictions in the broader capital area, prohibiting private social gatherings of seven or more individuals and demanding adults to verify their vaccination status at restaurants and other indoor venues. However, according to Kim, such steps have yet to curb transmissions.
“If it becomes evident that we are not succeeding in reversing this crisis scenario over the next few days,” Kim, South Korea’s No. 2 behind President Moon Jae-in, stated, “the government will have no alternative but to take exceptional anti-virus measures, including forceful societal distancing.”
If things continue to look poor next week, Deputy Health Minister Lee Ki-il said officials may cut the limit on social gatherings and reinstall business-hour restrictions at restaurants and bars that were suspended in November.
During a briefing, Lee stated, “We will do our utmost to avert a lockdown.”
Around 5,300 of the 7,022 new cases recorded Friday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, came from Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan region, where the virus has struck hardest. After 53 virus victims died in the last 24 hours, the country’s death toll has risen to 4,130, with 852 more in serious or critical condition.
Since last week, when the first instances of the new omicron form were linked to immigration from Nigeria, South Korea has tightened its borders to ward off the new strain. According to the KDCA, three more omicron illnesses were verified on Friday, bringing the total to 63.
It’s unclear if omicron is more infectious or harmful than prior forms of the virus, according to scientists.