South Korea has the highest number of infections since December
South Korea reported 1,212 new cases today, with a steep rise in coronavirus infections never seen since the winter outbreak while most of its people are still unvaccinated. Health experts say the government has sent the wrong message by pushing for a premature easing of social distancing.
Crowded restaurants, bars and shops and large crowds of beer drinkers in parks along Seoul’s Han River in recent weeks have shown how the country has let its guard down despite a slow launch of the vaccine.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said authorities will consider stricter removal rules if broadcasts continue to grow over the next two to three days. President Moon Jae-in, in a separate meeting, ordered a swift deployment of police officers, troops, and public officials to facilitate contact tracing. “This is an emergency situation in which we must invest all our skills to respond to Covid-19,” said Kim.
The government had planned to raise the ceiling on private meetings from four to six people, extend indoor dining in restaurants by two hours until midnight, and allow vaccinated people to go out without masks starting this month. More than 1,000 of the new cases come from the greater area of the capital, which is home to half of the country’s 51 million people, including a record 577 in Seoul.
Infections have also been reported in other major cities and regions, fueling fears that the virus may spread further during the summer holidays. While cases among people aged 60 and over have slowed following vaccinations, transmissions are accelerating in other age groups, including those in their 20s and 30s who are more likely to go out and socialize, he said. Lee Ki-Il, Deputy Minister of Health Policy. “The number of virus patients is increasing very rapidly in metropolitan areas where there is a high concentration of bars and other entertainment venues where young people often go,” he said. Lee also expressed concern about the spread of the Delta variant. The government plans to add at least 25 more test stations in Seoul and tighten enforcement of restrictions in restaurants and other businesses, which will face 10-day closures as of Thursday if they fail to implement the spacing and other measures.
The death toll from the pandemic is 2,033 in South Korea, where only 30% of the population received one dose of the vaccine, only about 10% received both.