S.Korea’s new Covid cases hit fresh high of 27,443

South Korea’s daily virus cases on Friday hit another all-time high with infections exceeding 27,000 for the first time amid the fast spread of the Omicron variant after a major holiday.

The country reported 27,443 new Covid-19 infections, including 27,283 local cases, raising the total to 934,656, Yonhap news agency reported, citing the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The previous daily record was 22,907 reported Thursday.

South Korea’s new infections have surged sharply in recent days, breaking the 20,000 mark for the first time Wednesday just a week after it topped 10,000 daily cases on Jan. 26. New daily cases have more than tripled in the past two weeks.

The death toll from Covid-19 came to 6,836, up 24 from Thursday. The fatality rate was 0.73 percent.

The number of critically ill Covid-19 patients was 257, down 17 from a day earlier.

At-home care patients rose 7,721 from the previous day to a total of 104,857, nearing the country’s maximum care capacity of 106,000 for those treated at home.

Health authorities have warned that the five-day Lunar New Year holiday, which ended Wednesday, could send virus cases to new heights in the weeks to come.

Earlier in the day, South Korea decided to extend the current social distancing curbs for two more weeks through February 20, during which private gatherings of more than six people will be banned and businesses are subject to a 9 p.m. curfew.

To curb the rise of serious cases, the government also decided to lower the age of eligibility for Covid-19 treatment pills from 60 to 50, starting Monday.

On Thursday, the country began allowing hospitals and medical clinics to conduct rapid antigen tests to effectively deal with the omicron-fueled Covid-19 wave.

Under the new system, only those who test positive in rapid antigen tests will be able to receive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in principle. People aged over 60 or in high-risk groups, such as those with underlying health conditions, will be prioritized for PCR tests.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Gyeonggi Province that surrounds Seoul reported 7,202, followed by Seoul with 6,139 and the western port city of Incheon with 1,779. Cases from overseas rose 160 to 25,967.

As of Friday, 27.59 million people, or 53.8 per cent of the country’s 52 million population, had received booster shots. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 44.05 million people, accounting for 85.8 per cent.

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