• S. Korea Reports 3,901 New COVID Cases, 39 Deaths

People stand in a socially distanced line at a COVID-19 testing center near Seoul Station. (Photo: Yonhap)

Surging coronavirus infections and critical cases in South Korea are showing little signs of letting up amid eased social distancing rules aimed at boosting the economy and relieving pandemic fatigue.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported Friday 3,901 new COVID-19 cases, most from the densely populated greater Seoul area.

The number of critically ill coronavirus patients rose to 617 in the last 24 hours, hitting another high, while 39 more lives were taken by the virus, pushing the death toll to 3,440.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said the country is facing its biggest challenge in the fight against COVID-19, just four weeks after beginning its transition to living with the virus.

Kwon noted that the fast spread of infections among senior citizens and sharp increases in critical cases and deaths are pushing intensive care units to the limit.

With breakthrough infections accounting for 64 percent of recent cases, he stressed the need for people to get their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots as soon as possible.

More than 82 percent of the population has so far received one shot of a vaccine and over 79 percent has been fully inoculated.

The government will announce tougher antivirus measures to contain the spread of the virus Monday.

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