Virus cases jump 1,200 in South Korea amid slow vaccination
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea is seeing a steep rise in coronavirus infections unseen since the worst of its outbreak last winter as it slips into another surge while most of its people are still unvaccinated.
The 1,212 new cases confirmed by Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday came close to matching its highest daily increase of the pandemic — 1,240 cases reported on Christmas Day.
Health experts say the government sent the wrong message to the public by pushing for a premature easing of social distancing despite a steadily rising caseload.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum during a virus meeting said officials will consider tougher social distancing rules if transmissions continue to grow over the next two or three days.
“This is an emergency situation where we need to invest all our abilities to respond to COVID-19,” he said, while pleading for public vigilance.
The government had planned to raise the cap on private social gatherings from four to six people, extend indoor dining at restaurants by two hours until midnight and allowing vaccinated people to be mask-less outdoors starting this month. But officials in Seoul and nearby areas held off the new rules as infections rose.
Most of the new cases were from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, but infections were also occurring in other major cities and regions, including Busan, Daejeon, Daegu and the southern resort island of Jeju. There are concerns the virus could spread further due to increased travel during the summer holiday season.
The country’s caseload is now at 162,753 after adding around 5,800 cases this month alone. The death toll is at 2,033.
The nation’s vaccination campaign has yet to gather speed, with only 30% of its population...