President Moon Jae-in says the next phase in the transition to living with COVID-19 will be put on hold for now, replaced by special quarantine measures that will be implemented over the next four weeks.
Chairing a virus response meeting on Monday, Moon noted that new infections, critical cases and deaths are all on the rise, putting a strain on hospital bed capacity.
The government was initially set to assess the first-phase transition carried out in the previous four weeks on Monday and consider whether to further ease virus prevention rules.
Moon said moving on to the second phase of transition will be postponed as the virus' resurgence is more serious than expected.
But the president said the transition to return to normal life can't be reversed, making it clear that restrictions on business hours and personal gatherings won't be tightened.
Regarding the special quarantine measures, he said the key is again vaccination and called for changing the definition of "fully vaccinated" to include booster shots.
Moon said raising the inoculation rate among teenagers is also very important and asked officials to swiftly review approving shots for ages five to 12.
He also urged efforts to push up the date of introducing oral COVID-19 treatment from February 2022 to within this year, as well as thorough measures to block the inflow of the Omicron variant.