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S. Korea may introduce toughened antivirus measures next week

People stand in line to receive coronavirus tests at a screening clinic in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
People stand in line to receive coronavirus tests at a screening clinic in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The South Korean government has decided to postpone announcing an emergency COVID-19 response plan until Monday, Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said Friday.

The minister’s announcement followed a government meeting on Thursday, where health authorities discussed the possibility of reintroducing toughened measures to contain the resurgence of the coronavirus. They, however, failed to come to a conclusion and have delayed the announcement.

On Friday, the country reported 3,901 new COVID-19 cases, the second straight day the figure has stayed below 4,000. But, critical cases hit an all-time high of 612, up from 549 on Thursday and 586 on Wednesday.

Korea also added 39 COVID-related deaths on Friday, the country’s highest daily tally, pushing the total death toll to 3,440.

The resurgence in COVID-19 cases came after the government started easing restrictions for a gradual return to prepandemic life under the phased “living with COVID-19” scheme.

“Just four weeks after we started the move toward normalcy, we are facing the biggest challenge in our fight against COVID-19,” Health Minister Kwon said during a coronavirus response meeting on Friday.

”Recently, the country’s daily infections have been surpassing 3,000. With the virus spreading fast among senior citizens and sharp increases in critical cases and deaths, the capacity of hospital beds in intensive care units are being pushed to the limit,” he added.

Around 64 percent of the COVID-19 cases were breakthrough infections, and more than 85 percent of those infections were in people aged 60 or above, Kwon said.

As breakthrough infections have rapidly grown among the elderly population, the minister urged people aged 60 or above to get a booster shot.

The minister also asked citizens to strictly follow social distancing measures to prevent the further spread of the virus under eased COVID protocols.

In South Korea, a total of 42.42 million people, or 82.6 percent of the country’s population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines to date. The number of people who are fully vaccinated reached 40.76 million people, or 79.4 percent.


By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)
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