S. Korea’s Covid cases surpass 14,000 amid rapid Omicron spread

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South Korea’s daily Covid-19 cases hit over 14,000 on Thursday, breaking the record for a third consecutive day as the highly contagious Omicron variant continues to spread across the country at an unprecedented speed.

The country reported 14,518 Covid cases, including 14,301 local infections, bringing the total to 777,497, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

South Korea posted the first five-digit daily tally of 13,012 on Wednesday, following the previous record high of 8,570 on Tuesday. The per day counts have nearly quadrupled since early last week, when the figure had hovered around 3,800, Yonhap news agency reported.

The death toll came to 6,654, up by 34 from Wednesday. The fatality rate stood at 0.86 per cent.

The number of critically ill Covid patients was 350, down by 35 from the previous day.

Health authorities introduced a readjusted virus response system this week to better tackle the highly transmissible variant.

Under the regime, rapid antigen self-tests replace polymerase chain reaction tests at testing sites, except for those aged over 60 or high-risk groups. Local hospitals and clinics will administer diagnostic tests and treat patients starting February 3.

Vaccinated Covid patients who do not show severe symptoms will need to quarantine and go through treatment at home for seven days.

An innoculated person who comes in contact with a Covid infected patient would not have to quarantine, but will have to take a PCR test about a week after the initial contact.

The KDCA said the revised regime is designed to minimise critical cases and deaths, while preventing an overload and collapse of the medical system.

The system, currently being applied in parts of the country, will expand nationwide after the three-day Lunar New Year holiday running till February 2.

Of the locally transmitted cases Thursday, Gyeonggi Province that surrounds Seoul reported 4,738 new Covid cases, followed by Seoul with 3,385 and the western port city of Incheon at 1,010.

The number of imported cases was tallied at 217, bringing the total to 24,451.

As of Thursday, 26.04 million people, or 50.7 per cent of the country’s 52 million population, had received booster shots, the KDCA said. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 43.90 million people, accounting for 85.6 per cent.

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