South Korea hits record number of Covid-19 cases after relaxing restrictions

The country may consider going into a "circuit breaker" again if ICU capacity is stretched.

Low Jia Ying | November 18, 2021, 01:33 PM

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South Korea reported a record high of 3,292 Covid-19 cases today (Nov. 18) just as it began to relax restrictions earlier this month, according to The Korea Herald.

The country entered the first phase of its "living with Covid-19" strategy on Nov. 1, which accompanied loosened restrictions on social gatherings and vaccinated-only entry into high-risk places such as nightclubs and indoor gyms, reported Reuters.

Record number of cases

The 3,292 cases reported on Nov. 18  surpassed South Korea's previous record of 3,270 reported on Sep. 25, according to The Korea Herald.

Out of the 3,272 locally transmitted cases, 1,423 were reported in Seoul, 965 in nearby Gyeonggi and 195 in Incheon.

Prior to embarking on its "living to Covid-19" strategy, South Korea had been battling its fourth wave of Covid-19 infections that started in July, reported Reuters.

78.5 per cent of South Korea's population is vaccinated, including more than 90 per cent of its adult population, according to Reuters.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said that an increase in the number of serious cases may also be due to the waning effectiveness of those who received their vaccines earlier on in the vaccination programme.

On Wednesday (Nov. 17), the KDCA said that it is planning to cut the wait time for elderly and vulnerable people to get their booster shots two months earlier than the original six-month interval, reported Reuters.

Monitoring ICU capacity

Reuters also reported that the KDCA will consider enforcing a "circuit breaker" on the loosened restrictions if more than 75 per cent of ICU beds nationwide are occupied, and if "other factors" pose high risks.

As of Wednesday, hospital beds in the greater Seoul area are rapidly getting filled, with only about 30 per cent of ICU beds left available, reported Reuters.

According to Yonhap News Agency, South Korea Prime Minister Kim Boo Kyum will hold a meeting with hospital chiefs in Seoul to discuss operations of intensive care beds amid the rising number of critically ill Covid-19 patients.

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