Authorities in South Korea have evaluated that the risk level from the pandemic is at the HIGHEST level for the second week in a row.
The daily caseload reached the highest-ever for a Monday at 4-thousand 3-hundred 25.
On top of that, it was the sixth day straight that the number of critically-ill patients was in the 700s.
7-hundred 27 were reported to be critically ill.
Health authorities said the country's medical capacity has reached its limit.
On Monday, the Central Disaster Management Headquarters said 8 out of 10 beds for critically ill COVID-19 patients in the greater Seoul area were being used.
The healthcare crunch was most evident in the Seoul and Incheon area.
In Seoul, nearly 90 percent of its beds for critically ill patients were in use, while the figure in Incheon stood at 93.7 percent.
The authorities have asked for more active participation on virus prevention measures.
They cited the low booster shot rate, around 20 percent among the elderly who aren't in nursing hospitals or facilities, and stressed that the number of critically ill patients and deaths will only go down if more seniors get an extra jab.
They also put a pause on their "gradual return to normal" scheme and toughened measures for the wider population from Monday.
This includes limiting the number of people that can meet up for social gatherings.
In the capital region, only six people are able to meet which is down from 10.
And in other regions, only 8 can meetwhich has been reduced from 12.
Only one unvaccinated person will be allowed per group in all regions.
Vaccine passes have also been expanded to restaurants, cafes, and theaters.
Previously, vaccine passes had only been required for people entering venues like indoor sports facilities, bars, nightclubs, singing rooms and public baths.
But now, more venues require proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test result taken within two days in order to gain entry.
A one-week grace period will be provided so businesses can get up to speed.
Authorities have also decided to extend vaccine pass requirements to students aged 12 to 18 from February, despite opposition from some teens and their parents.
They will require students to be fully vaccinated to go to cram schools and academies.
Shin Ye-eun, Arirang News.