SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – New coronavirus infections in South Korea surpassed 7,000 on Friday for the third day in a row as the worst rise since the pandemic began, invading hospitals and losing health workers.
Critics have blamed the spread on the government’s arbitrariness, which drastically lowered social segregation rules in early November, with officials describing it as the first step towards restoring pre-pandemic normalcy.
Although work has begun to escalate in recent weeks, officials were initially hesitant to step up social distance, citing fatigue and frustration due to restrictions and their impact on livelihoods. But there has been a sense of urgency as the infectious delta variant has reduced the effectiveness of vaccines and many people 60 and older are still waiting for their enhancing buds to sprout and the first cases of omicron have been identified.
No. 2 Prime Minister Kim Bukyum, behind President Moon Jae-in, said at a meeting on the virus that the country could be forced to take further “emergency” measures if it cannot slow the spread of the virus in the near future.
Officials have issued administrative orders from hospitals across the country demanding the allocation of another 2,000 beds combined for COVID-19 treatment.
The expanded capacity will be used to ease the congestion of hospitals in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan area, where 90 percent of resuscitation units are already busy. Officials said more than 1,200 infected patients who needed to be hospitalized in a large metropolitan area had to wait at home on Friday morning due to bed shortages.
Officials have revised their medical intervention policy so that most mild cases can be treated at home. While about 20,500 people are being cared for at home, some medical teams say the new approach is life-threatening.
According to Kim, the government will accelerate the delivery of booster shocks by reducing the interval between second and third vaccine injections from next week to the current four or five to three months.
“If it becomes clear that we cannot overcome this crisis situation in the next few days, the government will have no choice but to take emergency antivirus measures, including a strong social distance,” he said.
In South Korea, an average of more than 5,800 infections are reported each day, with more than 41,000 cases added in the last seven days alone, bringing the national workload to 503,000. The death toll in the country has risen to 4,130 after 53 infected patients died in the last 24 hours.
By allowing larger social gatherings, longer meal hours in restaurants and the full opening of schools in November, officials predicted that improved vaccine rates in the country would help reduce hospitalizations and deaths, even if the virus continues to spread.
However, there has been an increase in serious cases and deaths among people aged 60 and older, including those whose immunity was weakened after early vaccination of vaccines that began in February.
Approximately 41.5 million people, or 81 percent of the population of more than 51 million, have been fully vaccinated, but only 10 percent have been vaccinated.
The new rules, which went into effect this week, prohibit private gatherings of seven or more people in the larger metropolitan area and require adults to check the status of vaccinations in restaurants and other indoor venues. But Kim said such measures have not yet had an impact on slowing transmission.
Deputy Health Minister Lee Ki-il said officials could further reduce the limit on social gatherings and continue working hours restrictions in restaurants and bars, which were lifted in November, to look bad next week.
“We will try our best to avoid the blockade,” Lee said.
Some experts have called for stronger measures such as forcing employers to use remote labor and increasing government spending to support small business owners in the collapsed service sector to ensure compliance with social segregation rules. .
South Korea has also tightened its borders to prevent a new omicron option since it identified its first cases involving immigrants from Nigeria last week. According to the KDCA, health officials confirmed three more omicron infections on Friday, bringing the number to 63.
Scientists say it is not yet clear whether the omicron is more contagious or dangerous than previous strains of the virus.