South Korea reported over 4,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time on Wednesday, deepening concerns about recently eased social distancing rules.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said 4,116 people newly tested positive the previous day, breaking the previous daily record of 3,292 reported last Thursday.
The number of critically ill patients also hit an all-time high of 586, raising concerns over a lack of hospital beds, especially in the Seoul metropolitan area.
Prime Minister Kim Boo Kyum told a government meeting the outbreak is "worse than projected," alluding to the need to consider invoking an "emergency plan" to curb the virus' spread in the metropolitan area.
The government began implementing its "living with COVID-19" policy this month, including lifting restrictions on restaurants' business hours and allowing larger private gatherings.
But the government move was also followed by warnings from health authorities that immediate upticks would be inevitable due to the increase in activity.
Nearly 80 percent of South Koreans have been fully vaccinated. About 80 percent of those aged 60 and older who were infected over the past two weeks have been inoculated, Kim said Wednesday.
The prime minister indicated that as vaccine effectiveness appears to be waning quickly, the government would work more quickly to give booster shots to those eligible.