South Korea reports record daily COVID-19 cases as Moderna pledges vaccines

Pedestrians walk past police buses that are parked surrounding the Gwanghwamun square to prevent unexpected anti-government protests amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in central Seoul, South Korea

South Korea on Wednesday reported 1,896 new COVID-19 cases for Tuesday, its highest-ever daily increase, as the country struggles to subdue a fourth wave of outbreaks fanned by the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The daily tally broke a previous record set on July 22 as infections are spreading beyond the capital Seoul and its neighbouring regions where the toughest social distancing rules are in place.

There were 1,823 domestically transmitted cases on Tuesday and 33.5%, or 611, of the were from areas outside the capital regions, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

This is the first time the number of cases outside the Seoul metropolitan region has exceeded the 600 mark since the first COVID-19 wave emerged from a church in the southeastern city of Daegu.

Tighter social distancing curbs took effect across most of the country on Tuesday and will last for two weeks. Those areas will be under Level 3 curbs on a four-level scale, which will mean a 10 p.m. (1300 GMT) dining curfew and ban on gatherings of more than four people.

The tighter curbs were enacted to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus during South Korea’s peak summer holiday season.

The greater Seoul area remains under Level 4 curbs that include a ban on gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m.

VACCINES AS PLANNED

South Korea’s vaccination programme appeared to hit a snag on Monday after Moderna (MRNA.O) told the government that shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine promised to the country would be delayed.

However, the health ministry said on Wednesday that the delayed shipments will arrive next week and the vaccine rollout should continue as planned.

Moderna on Tuesday said delays at its vaccine manufacturing partners outside the United States were slowing the supply to overseas markets.

Moderna’s Senior Vice President John Lepore told South Korea’s health minister that the company would deliver the majority of the delayed volume next week and the rest in August, Son Young-rae, a health ministry official, told a briefing.

Of the country’s 52 million people, 35% have received at least one vaccine dose, with the government aiming to vaccinate 70% of people with one dose by September.

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