Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum puts on his mask during a COVID-19 response meeting in Sejong on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Wednesday the country's virus situation is worse than expected, especially in the capital area, urging health authorities to beef up containment measures.
Kim pointed out that the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country's population, is in an urgent situation and needs to consider imposing an emergency COVID-19 response plan based on health authorities' virus risk assessment.
As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, health authorities and local governments had reported 3,573 new COVID-19 cases, already surpassing the previous all-time high of 3,292 reported on Nov. 18.
The number of new COVID-19 cases to be announced Wednesday morning is expected to surpass 4,000.
The surge in daily COVID-19 cases came amid eased social distancing after the government started to initiate its first phase of the "living with COVID-19" scheme for people's gradual return to normal life from this month.
"Our gradual return to normal life has faced its first hurdle,"
Kim said during a COVID-19 response meeting in Sejong. "We are at a point to review whether we should move to the next phase or not, but the situation is more serious than we expected.
With the number of serious COVID-19 cases showing no signs of letup, Kim called for bolstering the country's efficient management of hospital beds and expanding home treatments of the novel coronavirus.
"We should beef up support measures so that asymptomatic patients and those with mild symptoms can have treatments at home safely," he said.
Kim also asked people, particularly senior citizens, to get booster COVID-19 vaccines shots, as the number of breakthrough cases is also rising.
A booster shot refers to an extra dose of a vaccine given after the protection provided by the original jabs wanes over time.
"We ask people to actively receive booster shots according to their schedule with the mindset that vaccination can be completed with a 'third inoculation,'" he said. (Yonhap)