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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Virus spiking sharply in South Korea and especially Seoul

coronavirus covid Outbreak South Korea Daily Life
Lee Jin-man/AP
Visitors wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus visit at the International Quarantine Expo in Goyang, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

While pandemic restrictions are easing around the islands, they may be headed the other way in South Korea. COVID-19 cases have been spiking in that country, and government leaders are especially concerned about the capital city.

Earlier this week, the number of daily COVID-19 cases in South Korea hit a new record.

More than 4,100 new cases were reported Wednesday — that’s the highest number since South Korea’s first case of the novel coronavirus in January 2020.

Today that number dropped back below 4,000 — but it remains near those record highs.

Health officials say nearly 80% of the new cases come from the greater Seoul area.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told reporters Wednesday that the capital area needs to be ready to “activate an emergency response plan at any time.”

The Central Disaster Management Headquarters reports more than 86% of intensive care unit beds in Seoul are now occupied — with fewer than 50 left in the entire city.

The government began easing restrictions at the start of this month — under a three-phase program it calls “living with COVID-19.”

Original plans were to move to a second phase in the middle of next month — but the government says that may be delayed.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says a little more than 79% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.

This Asia Minute aired on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021.

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