South Korea Exceeds 4,000 New Virus Cases in a Day for the First Time

A medical worker in a booth takes a nasal sample from a man at a makeshift testing site in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. New coronavirus infections in South Korea exceeded 4,000 in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic as a delta-driven spread continues to rattle the country after it eased social distancing in recent weeks to improve its economy. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon).

After easing its social distancing recently to improve the country’s economy, new coronavirus infections in South Korea skyrocketed to a little over 4,000 in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic as a delta-driven spread continues to rattle the country.

The country’s death toll is now 3,363 after 35 virus patients died in the past 24 hours. The 586 patients who are in serious or critical conditions also marked a new high.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said most of the new 4,116 cases reported Wednesday came from the capital Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan region, where an increase in hospitalizations has created fears about possible shortages in intensive care units.

Health workers are now wrestling with a rise in serious cases and fatalities among older people who rejected vaccines or whose immunities have waned after getting injected early in the vaccine rollout that began in February.

“The rise in serious cases has been considerably higher than what we had expected,” Health Ministry official Son Youngrae said in a briefing. Son said officials are closely monitoring the situation and may announce steps to re-impose stronger social distancing measures in coming weeks if the spread continues to worsen.

Officials are now scrambling to speed up the administration of booster shots and create plans to share hospital capacities between the greater Seoul area and other regions with smaller outbreaks to prevent hospital systems from being overwhelmed.

– Ella Breedlove