South Korea Sets Record for New COVID Cases, Largely Concentrated in Seoul

South Korea is experiencing a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases, most of which were reported in the country's capital area, the Associated Press reported.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 4,116 new cases on Wednesday, saying that most of the infections came from Seoul and the rest of the metropolitan region. Thirty-five deaths have been attributed to the virus over the past 24 hours, increasing the country's overall death toll to 3,363.

The increase in cases could be attributed to the country loosening social distancing measures. Despite Reuters reporting that 80.8 percent of the country's population has been fully vaccinated, the majority of those infected are either unvaccinated or seeing their immunities decrease since the vaccine rollout in February.

Many patients that have been checked into hospitals or intensive care units are over age 60. The Ministry of Health and Welfare is currently considering re-enacting measures to decrease the number of cases.

"The rise in serious cases has been considerably higher than what we had expected," Son Youngrae of the Health Ministry said in a briefing.

In addition to potential new measures, officials are encouraging booster shots. According to Son, a rise in breakthrough cases is being reported among fully vaccinated older people. Orders to designate more hospital beds in Seoul for virus patients have been issued.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

South Korean Woman
South Korea is experiencing a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases, most of which were reported in the Seoul area. Above, a woman cycles past people lining up for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests at a COVID-19 testing center in Seoul on November 24, 2021. Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

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.

An increase in hospitalizations has created fears about possible shortages in intensive care units.

The 586 patients who are in serious or critical conditions also marked a new high.

Cases are also climbing in the United States ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, while Austria entered a major lockdown on Monday as a virus wave spreads across Europe.

Officials in South Korea fully reopened schools on Monday in what they describe as first steps toward restoring some pre-pandemic normalcy. In allowing larger social gatherings and longer indoor dining hours at restaurants, officials had hoped that improving vaccination rates would keep hospitalizations and deaths down even if the virus continues to spread.

Officials are now creating plans to share hospital capacities between the greater Seoul area and other regions with smaller outbreaks to prevent hospital systems from being overwhelmed.

South Korea COVID Testing
South Korea is experiencing a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases, most of which were reported in the country's capital area. Above, people line up to wait for coronavirus testing at a makeshift testing site in Seoul on November 24, 2021. AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon