South Korea’s prime minister has warned of a new coronavirus surge, with Covid-19 infection rates of five times the current high levels.
The figure of 40,266 new cases announced on Wednesday represents an 8% rise over the previous day and is the highest level recorded for a single day since May 11.
“Daily infections could soar to as many as 200,000 between mid-August and late September,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told a government meeting, citing the view of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and other experts.
Levels of 200,000 per day were last seen in April. Han said people in their 50s and those with underlying diseases will become eligible for a second Covid-19 booster shot.
Until now, only people aged 60 or above were eligible. The take-up rate has been low, however, with just 32% opting to receive a fourth shot.
South Korea in May ditched most of its pandemic-related restrictions, including an outdoor mask mandate, as cases slowed after peaking at more than 600,000 per day in mid-March.
The government has no immediate plans to bring back Covid-19 restrictions but does not rule them out if there is a “critical change” in the situation, Han said.
A seven-day quarantine requirement for those with Covid-19 remains in place, he added.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell