People wait in line to get tested for the coronavirus at Seoul Plaza in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
South Korea's new coronavirus cases hit an all-time high on Wednesday as infections continued to surge around the country amid waning immunity and colder weather.
The country confirmed 7,175 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total caseload to 489,484, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The daily tally was up by 2,221 from a day earlier, the biggest daily jump since the pandemic began early last year. The previous record of 5,352 was set on Saturday. The average daily infection cases were 5,012 for the seven days ending Tuesday.
The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients also jumped to a record high of 840, up 66 from a day ago, putting further strain on the country's already overwhelmed health care system.
The death toll rose 63 to 4,020, the third-highest daily figure after an all-time high of 70 on Saturday and 64 on Tuesday.
"In the capital area, where 80 percent of total cases are reported, we continue to add hospital beds with active cooperation from the medical community, but still it is tough to catch up with the pace of rising virus cases," Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during the government's COVID-19 response meeting Wednesday.
Rolling back the "live with COVID-19" scheme, which had been put in place for a month, the government reimposed stricter virus-related restrictions on Monday to limit indoor gatherings and encourage more vaccinations in order to contain a surge in infections and the spread of the omicron variant. The measures will remain in effect until Jan. 2.
The KDCA has confirmed 38 omicron cases, up two from a day earlier.
Of the total cases, Seoul reported 2,901 new cases, while 2,268 cases came from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 433 from Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul.
On the vaccination front, 83.3 percent of the country's 52 million population have at least received one shot of the vaccine, while 80.7 percent have received two shots and 8.8 percent have gotten their booster shots. (Yonhap)