SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – South Korea will ban private social gatherings of 5 or more people nationwide and force restaurants to close at 9 p.m., imposing the country’s toughest coronavirus restriction measures countries as hospitals face the deadliest month of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Thursday that the new measures would be implemented for at least 16 days after taking effect on Saturday, saying there was an urgent need to bring the country to a “stalemate.” with an increase as the plains overwhelm sprawling hospitals and exhausted medical staff.
Schools in the densely populated capital Seoul and surrounding metropolitan areas, where the virus has hit hardest, will also return to remote learning after fully reopening in November. .
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 7,622 new cases on Thursday, close to the daily record of 7,850 cases set a day earlier. That brought the total nationwide to 544,117, with nearly 97,000 added in December alone.
Most of the transmissions are in the capital area, where officials say more than 86 percent of intensive care units designated for COVID-19 are occupied amid hospitalizations and mortality increased dramatically.
More than 890 patients from the virus have died this month, bringing the country’s death toll to 4,518. As of Thursday morning, a record 989 patients were in serious or critical condition.
“During this period of stalemate, the government will strengthen the stability of our medical response capacity,” Kim, Seoul’s No. 2 person behind President Moon Jae-in, said during a meeting. Virus meeting. “We ask our people to respond to these efforts by proactively vaccinating.”
The surge in viral transmission has been a major setback for President Moon Jae-in’s government, which significantly relaxed social distancing rules in November while announcing a return to normalcy. often pre-pandemic in stages.
While focused on improving the economy, officials have predicted that the country’s soaring vaccination rates will reduce hospitalizations and deaths. But there has been an uptick in severe cases in people aged 60 and over, including those with compromised immunity, after being vaccinated early in the vaccine rollout that began in February. .
More than 81% of the population of 51 million have been fully immunized, but only 17% of the population has been vaccinated.
After hesitating for weeks, officials moderately tightened social distancing rules last week, banning gatherings of seven or more people in the Seoul metropolitan area and requiring adults to verify status. their vaccinations for use in restaurants and other businesses, but such measures are not meant to slow the spread of the virus.
Jung Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the KDCA, said the country could see the number of daily infections exceed 10,000 or 20,000 in the coming weeks if it does not meaningfully slow transmission now. She said that would push the number of serious cases to between 1,600 and 1,900, possibly exceeding what hospitals can handle without sacrificing their non-COVID-19 care.
“We are seeing an average of about 4,700 new cases in the Seoul metropolitan area, significantly higher than the maximum 3,600 that the hospital system can manage,” Jung said in a press conference.
Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said the four-person gathering limit would only apply to fully vaccinated adults. Those who are not fully vaccinated will have to eat alone at restaurants, Kwon said. The rules will not apply to children 18 years of age or younger. Restaurants, cafes, gyms and karaoke venues will have to close at 9pm, while cinemas, concert halls and private cram schools will have to close at 10pm.