SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 826 new cases of the coronavirus, its biggest daily jump in about six months, as fears grow about another huge wave of the virus in the greater capital area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that 633 of the cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where officials pushed back an easing of social distancing measures as infections soared over the past week.
Dozens of infections were each reported in other major cities and regions, including Busan, Daejeon and South Chungcheong Province.
Some health experts say government officials sent the wrong message to the public by announcing plans to allow for larger gatherings and longer indoor dining hours at restaurants starting this month to ease the pandemic’s shock on the economy. The experts say a premature easing of social distancing could have disastrous consequences when the country has administered first doses of vaccines to just 30% of its population and most younger adults remain unvaccinated.
The government had planned to relax social distancing restrictions nationwide at the start of July, raising the cap on private social gatherings from four to six people and allowing restaurants to extend indoor dining by two hours until midnight.
However, officials in Seoul and nearby Incheon and Gyeonggi Province have decided to hold off the new rules by at least a week as the wrestled with the rise in transmissions.
South Korea has so far reported 158,549 cases, including 2,024 deaths.