South Korea hospitals under intense pressure amid record 7,175 Covid cases in a day

South Korea has reported a record daily total of 7,175 new Covid cases.

Kim Boo-kyum, the prime minister, warned that hospitals were coming under intense pressure after the government announced a return to stricter restrictions on social gatherings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported that the total caseload rose to over 500,000 on Wednesday. The biggest daily jump since the start of the Pandemic was 2,221.

The number of critically ill patients rose to a record high of 840, up 66 from a day early, while the death toll increased by 63. The majority of critically ill patients are people over the age of 60, including those who received their first two vaccine doses early this year.

Kim conceded that it would be difficult to catch up with the pace of rising cases, but said that the government would increase the number of hospital beds.

Kim told the meeting that it would speed up hospital transfers for patients who develop severe symptoms and that more medical personnel would be sent to look after patients with mild symptoms. Private clinics would be used to treat Covid patients.

The recent surge in infections and deaths in a country that had been relatively successful in keeping infections and deaths to a minimum is being attributed to young people who have yet to be fully vaccineed and older citizens who have not received boosters.

South Korea has had more than 5,000 new cases a day for the past week because the virus has been kept in check. 38 cases of the Omicron variant have been identified.

People wait to take coronaviruses tests at a makeshift testing site.

The government introduced stricter social distancing and other measures on Monday that will remain in place until early January, just weeks after it relaxed some of the measures as part of its "living with Covid-19" approach.

Private gatherings will be limited to a maximum of six people in the area and eight outside the capital. The numbers were capped at 10 and 12.

People who want to access high-risk venues such as pubs, saunas and gyms will have to show proof of full vaccination or a negative coronaviruses test.

Kim acknowledged that the measures would create anxiety among small business owners, but said that they know from experience that if the measures fail, people will die.

The education ministry reported this week that almost all of the children and young people diagnosed with Covid-19 over the previous fortnight had not received their second dose, so they are being urged to complete their vaccinations. Only 8.8% of the population has had a booster dose.