SEOUL -- Daily COVID-19 infections in South Korea have jumped above 40,000 for the first time in two months, with the government warning of a potential five-fold surge in the coming months.
"Daily infections could soar to as many as 200,000 between mid-August and late September," Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told a government COVID-19 response meeting, citing the view of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) and experts.
The figure of 40,266 announced on Wednesday represents an 8% jump over the previous day and is the highest level since 43,908 on May 11.
Levels of 200,000 per day were last seen in April.
Han said people in their 50s and those with underlying diseases will become eligible for a second booster shot.
Until now, only people aged 60 or above were eligible. The take-up rate has been low, however, with just 32% opting to receive a fourth shot.
South Korea in May ditched most of its pandemic-related restrictions, including an outdoor mask mandate, as cases slowed after peaking at more than 600,000 per day in mid-March.
The government has no immediate plans to bring back restrictions but does not rule them out if there is a "critical change" in the COVID-19 situation, Han said.
A seven-day quarantine requirement for those with COVID-19 remains in place, he added.