South Korea sees record daily Covid cases as numbers exceeded 4,000 for the first time since pandemic

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

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New daily coronavirus infections in South Korea have exceeded 4,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic as a delta-driven spread continues to rattle the country.

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

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

South Korea is the latest country to see infections and hospitalisations rise after easing social distancing measures amid high vaccination rates.

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 loosened social distancing rules this month and 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 hospitalisations and deaths down even if the virus continues to spread.

Health Ministry official Son Youngrae said: “The rise in serious cases has been considerably higher than what we had expected.”