South Korea on Wednesday reported 2-thousand 4-hundred 25 new COVID-19 infections a jump by more than 7-hundred from the day before.
The number of critically ill patients also went up to 4-hundred-60 the highest recorded during the pandemic.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said authorities did not expect this number to go up as quickly as it has especially amid the country having just kicked off its "gradual return to normal" scheme.
“Several indices are worsening faster than expected, including the number of critically-ill patients, fatalities, and the reproduction rate. It’s an uneasy situation. For now, our medical capacity is stable, but we cannot rule out a repeat of the critical situation we saw last year, given the rise in gatherings for the year-end along with seasonal factors.”
As of Tuesday evening, 42 percent of the country's hospital beds for patients with critical symptoms were available for use.
But the authorities raised concerns that the number of hospital beds in the greater Seoul area could quickly fill up.
The capital, Seoul is already using more than 71 percent of its 345 critical patient beds.
This percentage is close to the standards that authorities had initially discussed when considering a circuit breaker to halt or reverse the easing restrictions.
Though, not final, they discussed to launch an emergency exit plan from its "gradual return to normal scheme" if more than 75 percent of hospital beds were being used for critically ill patients.
Exact criteria for the emergency plan and when it might be used will be revealed later next week.
Meanwhile, to expand its medical response, the Ministry of Health and Welfare is investing some 5 point 6 million US dollars to add 33 ECMO machines and 60 respirators for hospitals in need.
Also in efforts to bring the number of critically ill patients downauthorities have asked hospitals and clinics to conduct COVID-19 tests on its new patients and employees.
In-person visits to people in the hospital should be minimized and will only be allowed for those who are fully vaccinated.
Authorities also asked for higher vaccination participation particularly from seniors over 80 who are at much higher risk.
"The fatality rate of the elderly over the age of 80 who haven't been vaccinated is as high as 14.71 percent. But once they do get vaccinatedthis number goes down significantly to 3.46 percent. So we ask the elderly to please get vaccinated and to get their booster shots as well."
As of Wednesday, 77.2 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated.
Shin Ye-eun, Arirang News.