South Korea reports biggest daily jump in COVID-19 cases


The surge has been a blow to South Korea's vaunted pandemic-fighting system which successfully used invasive tracing, testing and quarantine to avoid lockdowns and blunt previous waves, and keep infections below 50 per day for much of the summer.

The country had previously been held up as a model of how to combat the pandemic, with the public largely following social distancing and other rules.

South Korea has reported a record daily increase in novel coronavirus cases for a second straight day with 1,030 new infections, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

President Moon Jae-in in a Facebook message apologised for his government's failure to contain the outbreak despite months of measures that hurt the economy. The remaining cases were spread across the country - 58 in Busan, 36 in Gangwon, 35 in Daegu, 23 in Ulsan, 21 in North Chungcheong, 19 in North Gyeongsang, 18 in Daejeon, 17 in South Gyeongsang, nine each in Gwangju and South Chungcheong, eight in South Jeolla, five in North Jeolla and one in Sejong City.

A shipment of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccines is unloaded from a United Airlines cargo-only flight from Brussels to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, US on December 2, 2020.

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The weekend numbers followed several days in which authorities reported figures ranging from about 500 to 600.

Despite warning of experts, the government had eased its social distancing restrictions to the lowest tier in October. Cafes can serve only takeaways, while restaurants must close by 9pm, with only deliveries permitted afterwards.

Of the new cases, 1,002 were locally transmitted, which bring the total tally to 42,766 infections, with 580 deaths.

"If we don't curb the spread now, escalating social distancing restriction to Level 3 would be inevitable", Chung told an emergency meeting.

South Korea endured one of the worst early Covid-19 outbreaks outside mainland China, but brought it broadly under control with its "trace, test and treat" approach.

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