SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported another new 1,132 cases of the new coronavirus as its resurgence worsened over Christmas week, putting greater pressure on the government to enforce stricter physical distancing controls.
The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the country’s caseload to 55,902. The country had added 1,241 cases on Christmas Day, which was its largest daily increase since the emergence of the pandemic. Total fatalities were at 793 after more than 220 COVID-19 patients died in the past 15 days alone as the viral surge left hospital capacities and medical staff stretched thin.
Around 780 of the new cases were from the greater Seoul area, home to 26 million people. Health workers discovered a large virus cluster in a huge prison where more than 500 inmates and workers have been found infected. Transmissions in recent weeks have also been tied to hospitals, nursing homes, churches, restaurants and army units.
Government officials restored some social distancing restrictions in recent weeks after easing them to the lowest tier in October and are now clamping down on private social gatherings, shutting down ski resorts, restricting hotel occupancy and setting fines for restaurants if they accept large groups.
Officials plan to meet Sunday to determine whether to possibly shutter hundreds of thousands of nonessential businesses. Officials have resisted such action for weeks, saying it could unleash further shock on an already weak economy.