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A close-up of a masked official with authorities offloading  a box of vaccines from a plane in the background.

South Korea has received 700,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Israel as a part of an exchange deal.

Key points:

  • South Korea recieved the Pfizer shots in exchange for a future shipment of vaccines to Israel
  • Coronvirus infections are surging again in South Korea where most of people remain unvaccinated
  • Only 30 per cent of the population has received a first vaccine dose

Under the deal, Seoul will return the same amount of coronavirus shots to Israel later this year from a future order, when officials hope South Korea’s shortage will have eased.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency director Jung Eun-kyeong said the doses would go to Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province where the virus was spreading fastest.

She expressed hope the shots would help speed up vaccination of nursery and daycare workers and kindergarten and primary school teachers — something authorities plan to start this month.

South Korea’s vaccination campaign has yet to gather speed, with only 30 per cent of its population receiving first doses as of Wednesday, when the shipment from Israel arrived.

About 10 per cent of the population has received a second dose.

A medical worker in a booth takes a nasal sample from a man at a coronavirus testing site in Seoul.A medical worker in a booth takes a nasal sample from a man at a coronavirus testing site in Seoul.

 

While infections among people in their 60s and older have slowed following vaccinations, transmissions are accelerating across other age groups.

The country reported more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a level unseen since the worst of its outbreak in winter.

Most of the new cases were from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, but infections were also occurring in other major cities and regions, including Busan, Daejeon, Daegu and the southern resort island of Jeju.

South Korea’s total number of reported infections stands at 162,753 after adding around 5,800 cases this month alone. The death toll is 2,033.

Health experts say the government sent the wrong message by pushing for a premature easing of social distancing.

Packed restaurants, bars and stores and huge beer-drinking crowds at parks alongside Seoul’s Han River in recent weeks have illustrated how the country has let its guard down despite a slow vaccine rollout.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said officials would consider tougher distancing rules if transmissions continued to grow over the next two or three days.

AP

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Posted , updated 

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