South Korea on Thursday, Dec. 16, said that it will reinstate stricter Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions less than two months after they were rolled back under a “living with COVID-19” policy. This is due to the recent surge in new infections and serious coronavirus cases in the highly vaccinated East Asian country.
Authorities eased COVID-19 restrictions following a mass vaccination campaign that made the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rate surge. Now, between 92 to 94 percent of adults in the country are fully vaccinated, and more than 15 percent have received booster doses. This makes South Korea one of the world’s most vaccinated nations. (Related: Child vaccination mandate in South Korea enrages parents.)
This high vaccination rate caused the country’s worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began. The number of new cases has surged almost five times higher than the previous record and the number of serious infections has tripled since the mass vaccination campaign began.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 7,622 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, Dec. 15. This comes just one day after the country reported a new record-high daily count of 7,850 COVID-19 cases.
The number severe cases has also increased to a record-high of 989. Eighty-seven percent of intensive care units in the Seoul metropolitan area are occupied, and around 81 percent of intensive care units nationwide are used.
The daily death toll in South Korea hit its highest level on Monday, Dec. 13, with 94 new COVID-19 deaths.
KDCA Commissioner Dr. Jeong Eun-kyeong warned that the number of new daily of cases could go above 10,000 this month and over 20,000 in Jan. 2022.
Total cases in South Korea have now risen to 544,117, including 148 cases of the post-vaccine omicron variant, and 4,518 deaths. The KDCA has refused to release any data on how many of the new COVID-19 cases are fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 restrictions to stay in place until next year
A day before the South Korean officials announced new restrictions, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the government is officially scrapping plans to further relax current restrictions. Kim also said the government is planning to reimpose social distancing restrictions, including a ban on gatherings and a curfew on dining in restaurants and other establishments.
“We’re looking at the current situation very seriously, and seeking to implement even stronger social distancing measures,” said Kim.
Under the new rules, which come into effect on Dec. 18 and last until Jan. 2, restaurants, cafes, bars and other “nightlife venues” can only stay open until 9 p.m. Other public places and entertainment venues like movie theaters, internet cafes and concert halls can operate only until 10 p.m.
Private gatherings are limited to no more than four people, so long as all four are fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated individuals will not be allowed to attend private gatherings. They will also not be allowed to dine out unless they do so on their own. Otherwise, they will only be able to use takeout or delivery services.
“We’re making all-out efforts to overcome the pressing crisis by expanding our medical capacity and vaccination campaign, but we need time,” said Kim when he announced the new restrictions. “We can go beyond this crisis only by beating down the current spread as soon as possible through strong social distancing.”
Currently, businesses have no limits on their operating hours. Private gatherings are limited to no more than six people in the Seoul metro area and eight in other regions, with no restrictions based on the vaccination status of the people. If groups of people dine in at restaurants or bars, only one among their number is allowed to be unvaccinated.
Listen to this episode of the “Health Ranger Report,” a podcast by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, as he talks about how the new COVID-19 “variants” will be used to justify more restrictive lockdowns in 2022.
Learn more about how highly vaccinated countries like South Korea are experiencing post-vaccine COVID-19 outbreaks at Pandemic.news.