South Korea reports record new Covid-19 cases as serious infections cause worry

A rise in cases was predicted by officials and experts as many social distancing restrictions were lifted earlier this month.
A rise in cases was predicted by officials and experts as many social distancing restrictions were lifted earlier this month.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea has reported a record high of 3,292 new Covid-19 cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Thursday (Nov 18), as the country moves into the first phase of its "living with Covid-19" with loosened restrictions.

A rise in cases was predicted by officials and experts as many social distancing restrictions were lifted earlier this month after the country surpassed its goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of its 52 million people.

More than 78.5 per cent are now fully vaccinated, including more than 90 per cent of adults.

The KDCA says the rise in serious cases is also being driven by the waning effects of coronavirus vaccines given to vulnerable groups such as the elderly earlier on in the process, leading to an increase in breakthrough infections.

As at Thursday, there were 506 serious cases, down slightly from an all-time high of 522 reported a day before.

To blunt that spike, the KDCA said on Wednesday that it has decided to shorten the dosing interval for booster shots to four months for people aged 60 or older and those who live or work in nursing homes and other vulnerable facilities.

Hospital beds are being filled rapidly around the greater Seoul area, with only about 30 per cent of intensive care units (ICUs) left available as at Wednesday.

The KDCA said it will consider issuing a circuit breaker on the relaxed distancing curbs if more than 75 per cent of ICU beds are used nationwide and other factors pose high risks.