South Korea pushes booster shots as COVID-19 spread worsens

South Korea pushes booster shots as COVID-19 spread worsens

flood South Korea on Wednesday reported 3,187 new cases of coronavirus, close to the record set in one day in September, a worrying development in a country that has relaxed social distancing rules in recent weeks to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic.

More than 2,550 new cases came from the greater metropolitan area, the Korea Agency for Disease Control and Prevention said, including a record 1,436 cases in Seoul. The country’s death toll is now 3,137, after 21 deaths were reported on Wednesday, the 16th consecutive day of double-digit deaths, including a record 32 on Saturday.

The delta-driven spread raised questions about whether the country was too quick to ease pandemic restrictions at the beginning of November in what officials described as a first step toward restoring some of the pre-pandemic normality.

By allowing large social gatherings and expanding indoor dining hours at restaurants, officials had hoped that improved vaccination rates in the country would reduce hospital admissions and deaths even if the virus continued to spread.

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But there has been a rise in serious cases and deaths among older adults who refused vaccinations or people in long-term care settings whose immunity waned after being vaccinated early in the vaccine launch, which began in late February.

Officials are now pushing to speed up giving of the booster injection to people who were fully vaccinated more than six months ago. Prime Minister Kim Bo-kyeom, the second government official behind President Moon Jae-in, said during a meeting on the virus Wednesday that the interval would be shortened to four months for people in their 60s or older, and for patients in nursing homes or long-term care hospitals. Kim said people in their 50s would be eligible for booster doses after five months.

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