For the first time since the outbreak began, the number of new coronavirus infections in South Korea topped 4,000 in a single day, as a delta-driven spread continues to worry the nation, which has recently relaxed social separation in order to enhance its economy.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the vast majority of the 4,116 new cases reported that day came from the capital Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan region, where an increase in hospitalizations has brought up concerns about potential shortages of intensive care units.
The country’s death toll has risen to 3,363 as a result of the deaths of 35 virus patients in the last 24 hours. Additionally, the 586 people who are in severe or critical condition represented a new record high.
South Korea is the latest country to report an increase in infections and hospitalizations as a result of the relaxation of social distancing restrictions in the wake of increased immunisation rates. Cases are also on the rise in the United States ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and Austria has declared a state of emergency as a viral wave sweeps across the continent.
Officials in South Korea began easing social separation measures earlier this month and completely reopened schools on Monday, in what they characterise as the first steps toward restoring some of the normality that existed before to the outbreak of the epidemic. Increasing the number of social events and extending indoor eating hours at restaurants was done in the belief that better vaccination rates would reduce the number of hospitalizations and fatalities, even if the virus continued to spread at its current pace.
The increase in severe instances and deaths among older persons who have refused immunizations or whose immunities have diminished as a result of being shot early in the vaccine rollout that started in February is a source of concern for health-care professionals.
“The increase in critical cases has been far larger than what we had anticipated,” Son Youngrae, a Health Ministry official, said in a briefing. If the transmission of the disease continues to increase, authorities, according to Son, may announce efforts to re-impose tougher social separation restrictions in the following weeks if the situation is constantly monitored.
KDCA records show that the majority of virus patients who died in recent weeks were in their 60s or older, and the majority of them had not been properly vaccinated or had not been vaccinated at all, according to the agency. Additionally, according to Son, there has been an increase in breakthrough infections among older patients who have had two vaccinations, demonstrating how the delta variation is lowering the efficiency of vaccinations.
The delivery of booster doses is being rushed, and plans are being developed to share hospital capacity between the greater Seoul area and other locations experiencing minor outbreaks in order to keep hospital systems from being overloaded.
In response, Son said that the government has given administrative directives to hospitals in the capital area directing them to set up hundreds of additional beds for virus patients. It is estimated that more than 83 percent of the region’s intensive care units (ICUs) dedicated to COVID-19 therapy are now full.