S. Korea logs second-highest daily COVID-19 tally as criticism of gov't grows

Sangmi Cha, Reuters

Posted at Dec 23 2020 04:34 PM

S. Korea logs second-highest daily COVID-19 tally as criticism of gov't grows 1
People wearing face masks cross a road in Seoul on September 11, 2020. South Korea largely overcame an early COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak with extensive tracing and testing, but is now battling several outbreaks. Jung Yeon-je, AFP

SEOUL — South Korea reported its second-highest daily tally of coronavirus cases as a survey underscored growing public dissatisfaction with President Moon Jae-in's handling of the latest wave of infections hitting the country.

According to a poll by research firm Realmeter published on Wednesday, six in ten South Koreans believe urgency should be prioritized over safety when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and that inoculations should begin as soon as possible given the rapid surge in new cases.

Domestic media has lambasted the government's approach to securing vaccines as too relaxed and overly reliant on domestic vaccines which will take more time than overseas options.

That prompted Moon's office on Tuesday to issue a statement that a public inoculation program would "not begin too late". 

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It has previously said vaccinations could start as early as February.

South Korea had 1,092 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the national tally to 52,550, with 739 deaths, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The record of 1,097 cases was logged on Sunday.

South Korea’s aggressive tracing and testing early in the pandemic had made the country a global success story but the recent surge in cases has confounded efforts to contain the virus.

Seoul and its surrounding areas have banned gatherings of more than four people from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, and both restaurant owners and patrons may face up to 3 million won ($2,700) in fines for violation of the order.

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Authorities have also shut down all ski resorts and winter tourist spots in a bid to stop the spread during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Wednesday that authorities have so far secured around 8,000 of a targeted 10,000 additional hospital beds for COVID-19 patients with the help of private hospitals.

($1 = 1,108.5000 won)