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(2nd LD) Virus situation in capital area urgent: PM

All News 10:34 November 24, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES paras 3-4)
By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Nov. 24 (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 issued the warning as the country's daily COVID-19 cases hit an all-time high of 4,117, with the number of critical ill virus patients also reaching a new record of 586.

The cases confirmed in the capital area, which includes the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and the western port city of Incheon, accounted for nearly 80 percent of the country's daily virus caseload, with Seoul alone reporting 1,735 cases.

Kim said 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.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum puts on his mask during a COVID-19 response meeting in Sejong on Nov. 24, 2021. (Yonhap)

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.


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