South Korea reported more than 500 new coronavirus cases for the third straight day on Saturday, the fastest spread of infections the country has seen since the early days of the pandemic. The 504 cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention brought the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 33,375, including 522 deaths. Around 330 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, the AP reports, home to about half of the country's 51 million people, where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions linked to hospitals, schools, saunas, gyms, and army units. Infections were also reported in other major cities including Daegu, the epicenter of the country's previous major outbreak in late February and March.
The recent spike came after the government eased social distancing restrictions to the lowest levels in October to support a weak economy, allowing high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and spectators to return to sports. Officials reimposed some of the restrictions this week and could be forced to clamp down on economic activities further if transmissions don't slow. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun warned that the daily count could reach 1,000, per Reuters, saying a shortage of hospital beds could result. "The situation is extremely serious and acute," he said at a meeting on the crisis, "as all of the 17 metropolitan cities and provinces and especially all the 25 districts in Seoul are reporting new cases."
(Read more South Korea