South Korea will raise anti-coronavirus restrictions to the highest level in Seoul and some neighbouring regions for two weeks from Monday, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum says, after new COVID-19 cases climbed to a daily record for the second day running.
The country reported 1316 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight on Thursday, up from Wednesday's previous record of 1275 a day.
A top health official on Thursday warned the numbers may nearly double by the end of July.
Under the new curbs, people are advised to stay home as much as possible, schools are closed, public meetings are restricted to two people after 6pm and rallies or other events are banned.
Nightclubs and bars would be shut, while restaurants and cafes would be allowed limited seating and only takeaway services after 10pm.
"Seoul alone saw 500 confirmed cases for the third day," Kim told a televised government meeting. "Four out of five infections are from the metropolitan Seoul area."
While the new, level four restrictions - the toughest of all distancing measures - will be imposed on Monday, Kim also advised the public to refrain from any private gatherings starting Friday.
He also said that during the two-week semi-lockdown the government will suspend a program introduced earlier this year that allowed mask-free outdoor gatherings for citizens vaccinated with at least one COVID-19 shot.
South Korea has only given both shots in the dual vaccination process to just over 10 per cent of its 52 million population, while 30 per cent have received at least one dose, the majority of whom are aged over 60.
The country aims to reach herd immunity before November by inoculating 70 per cent of the public with at least one shot by September.
South Korea's total COVID-19 infections to date stand at 165,344, with 2036 deaths.