South Korea nears record COVID-19 case count after relaxing restrictions

South Korea is seeing an increase in new COVID-19 cases after relaxing pandemic restrictions three weeks ago, The Washington Post reported.

The country reported 3,187 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the second-highest daily total since the start of the pandemic. Officials also reported that 522 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized with moderate to severe symptoms.

The seven-day average for daily coronavirus deaths has risen to 20 in the country, according to Our World in Data.

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Earlier this month, South Korea started to relax COVID-19 restrictions — letting bars, restaurants and cafes stay open longer, allowing private groups of up to 12 people to gather outside and allowing fans to attend professional sporting events, according to the Post. 

The government cited the country's vaccination rate above 75 percent for relaxing restrictions. 

However, health officials told reporters Wednesday that the spread of the delta variant has caused an increase in breakthrough cases at nursing homes and health care facilities. 

“This is why we need booster shots,” Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease expert at Korea University, told the Post.

South Korea’s government has started vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 17 and providing booster shots for senior citizen and health care workers, the Post noted.